April 2017, Vol. 2

Texas Rural Schools Task Force makes recommendations on teacher recruitment, retention

By Zach DiSchiano

Shaped by Commissioner Mike Morath in 2016, the Texas Rural Schools Task Force is charged with classifying present issues and best practices for rural school districts across the state. 

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, Texas has more than 2,000 campuses classified as being in rural areas. Texas has more schools in rural areas than any other state in the country with more than 20 percent of campuses located in rural areas.

Rural districts in the state face many educational obstacles specific to their size and region. We addressed those challenges in the January Vol. 1 edition of the HR Exchange newsletter.

The Rural Schools Task Force hosted regional forums that provided opportunities for task force members and superintendents to share visions for improvement in the areas of teacher recruitment, retention, use of technology, resource allocation, and parent and community engagement. The group met four times in Austin in 2016, with additional meetings in 2017. 

Some of the highlights of the Task Force recommendations include:

Teacher recruitment

  • Encourage and support the implementation of “Grow Your Own” programs on high school campuses through a variety of means including the public service endorsement in high school career pathways, dual credit opportunities in education coursework, exploring the possibility of an Early College High School model, and other innovative initiatives.
  • Explore the potential for a centralized, online statewide job application and vacancy matching site.
  • Promote the profession of teaching as rewarding and impactful.
  • Encourage educator preparation programs to increase awareness of rural teaching opportunities.
  • Broaden the pool of potential teachers by exploring the potential for flexibility in certification to include non-certified but qualified personnel to teach Career and Technology Education (CTE) courses, for certified personnel to teach outside of their field, and increasing opportunities for retired teachers to return to full-time teaching.

Teacher retention

  • Encourage the implementation of career pathways for teachers, including leadership opportunities, differentiated compensation, and other opportunities for growth without leaving the classroom.

Rural support in general

  • Continue to offer flexibility and support of local control (e.g., District of Innovation, T-TESS/T-PESS) and explore ways for allowing more flexibility in policies and compliance requirements.
  • Review the effects that policies, procedures, and processes have on rural schools by ensuring sufficient rural representation on the Commissioner’s Texas Association of School Administrators cabinet of superintendents and/or consider convening an annual or semi-annual “Rural Schools Commissioner’s Cabinet.”
  • Create ways to share best practices among rural schools across the state to foster the spread of innovation and achievement.
Final recommendations were presented to Commissioner Morath and are available for download in the report here.