Schools in rural Alaska are struggling to retain teachers, which is costing districts and potentially impacting the state’s ability to improve academically, according to a recent article by the Alaska Dispatch News.
Nearly 70 percent of Alaska’s districts are small and rural, and each year about 400 teachers are recruited from outside the state specifically to work in rural schools. Nearly 75 percent of Alaska’s current teachers are from outside Alaska. Northwest Arctic school district, in northwest Alaska, spent $85,000 last year flying human resources staff members to other states to recruit mostly new or inexperienced teachers. According to the article, the majority of those teachers leave after one or two years, and in some rural school districts, teacher turnover rates are almost 50 percent.
Some research shows that high turnover rates can negatively impact student learning. On a 2013 national standardized reading test, only 27 percent of Alaska’s fourth grade students scored at or above proficient compared to the national average of 34 percent. Alaska’s scores did not improve between 2011 and 2013 for for 4th or 8th grade students.
Rural districts nationwide often struggle to recruit and retain teachers. In South Carolina and West Virginia, some rural communities have attempted to build housing to encourage teachers to stay. Some states, including Alaska, have tried to “grow their own” teachers and leaders for rural schools. In Colorado, some rural districts have interviewed international candidates for open teaching positions, or have tried to recruit community members can teach with alternative teaching licenses.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.