Professional Development for Rural Districts: What Works?
March 2, 2018
Rural districts are often small, but the overall population of students in rural schools is large. As of 2011, the number of rural school teachers in the U. S. was about 740,000, or 23 percent of the nation’s public school workforce. (THE Journal,2011). One critical issue related to rural education is teacher retention. For rural districts, the retention problem is often exacerbated because teachers in these districts may be isolated from other professionals. Small schools do not offer the same opportunities for collaboration that urban and suburban schools do and the lack of opportunities to connect and share responsibilities can be discouraging and isolating.
Fortunately, there are now opportunities for professional development for rural educators and some strategies to ensure high quality PD. Providing these opportunities requires planning and, like any school district activity, a budget. Subject to planning and the budget, some options that are a good fit for rural districts include:
- Regularly scheduled PD sessions provided “in district” so that they don’t require travel and missed instructional time.
- Online learning, including competency-based learning through micro-credentials. (Not sure what a micro-credential is? Click here to learn more.)
- Virtual coaching and feedback, either for individual teachers or small groups.
- Customized PD that includes some on-site presentations, some online learning, and some virtual coaching and follow-up.
Effective PD should also be ongoing and span a long enough time period to allow for practice and implementation. This can be accomplished by planning that allots sufficient days or hours over an extended time period.
PD Anywhere can provide online learning that is cost effective, minimizes time away from instruction, and requires educators to demonstrate skills they have gained in the process.
THE Journal (2011) Keeping Rural School Up to Speed. Retrieved online February 8, 2018.