Rural Schools Struggle to Attract Teachers

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Sep. 24, 2012 12:00 am  

"We've hired at least three Teach for America teachers over the past three years," he said. "They've done a great job."

Most of them are ages 22-26 and unmarried, Wilson said, giving them the opportunity for full devotion to their job. But that devotion is temporary.

"Typically they do a three-year deal, but most leave after two years," Wilson said. "In our case, in those particular classrooms, usually test scores go up."

And the help isn't always a guarantee. For example, Mississippi's legislature recently pumped $5.5 million into Teach for America, the biggest contribution by any single state to the program. That means TFA will put more emphasis on Mississippi and fewer teachers will be available for Arkansas. Wilson said he hopes to work through that.

"The other day I saw on their website that they did speak before our legislators in Little Rock, and they talked to them about expanding their program and helping supply more teachers," he said. "You know, whoever is able to subsidize them the most gets the most teachers out of them."

Rural higher education suffers from the same issues. Arkansas State University's branch in Heber Springs searches nationwide for its professors.

"Most of our interests in doctorate-level folks are from out of state," said Vice Chancellor Chris Boyett.

Both of the school's recently hired doctorate-level professors moved from out of state, Boyett said, and he noted that one moved to Little Rock and commutes to Heber Springs.

In the end, it comes down to a balance of personal drive and being able to support oneself.

"Everybody has a career in mind," Wilson said. "Anybody can get a job, but what you really want is a career - something that can support your family and that you enjoy so you do a good job at it. You want to get into a career that you're going to enjoy the rest of your life."



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