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Rural Minnesota District Seeks to 'Grow' More Diverse Teacher Corps

A rural district in Minnesota is attempting to create a more diverse teaching staff by "growing" their own teachers, or seeking out local residents who are minorities and training them to be teachers, according to a recent article by The Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The article focuses on the rural Austin public school district, which serves of about 4,600 students in southeast Minnesota. To improve diversity of the teacher corps, the district is starting a summer teacher preparation program at its local elementary school so that residents can train to become teachers. Residents will take courses from visiting staff members from Winona State University and will observe and teach in classes with the district's teachers.

"Here in the Midwest the pool of teachers of color just isn't there," said Austin Superintendent David Krenz, in the article. "We've tried recruiting the traditional way, but ultimately we decided to look at the pool that's in our own back yard."

Statewide, 96 percent of teachers are white compared to 70 percent of the student population. About 12 percent of rural students are minorities in Minnesota, a percentage that has increased slightly in recent years both in Minnesota and nationwide, according to a report from the Rural School and Community Trust.

Teacher recruitment has been a topic of this year's legislative session in Minnesota due to extensive challenges, especially amongst rural districts, to find teachers. A bill proposed earlier this month aimed to ease teacher licensure burdens to attract more out-of-state teacher candidates. Gov. Mark Dayton suggested $25 million in his budget proposal to support programs that recruit teachers of color and teachers for hard to fill positions statewide. In more urban areas, like Minneapolis, the public school district is seeking approval from the state Board of Teaching to train minority teacher support staff members to become teachers.

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