Annotated Bibliography on the Staffing of Rural Schools

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The following is an annotated bibliography for the study The Northern Struggle for Talent: Attracting Teachers to Northern Ontario Communities. Seven articles have been summarized and key points pertaining to this study have been addressed. Furthermore, quotations, interesting points and statistics that can/will be used in the final paper have also been removed and presented in the bibliography. Similarities between articles have also been addressed in this first section to draw your attention to the emerging themes in the articles.


Among all the articles read there were a surprising amount of similarities. The problem of staffing rural schools appears to be an international concern. Similar problems to Canada are found in the US as well as Australia. The three major problems consistently mentioned are:

Staffing rural schools;

retaining teachers;

and finding qualified teachers.

The articles also consistently address problems that make it hard to staff and retaining qualified teachers at rural schools. The problems appear to stem from the issues that rural areas:

1. Pay teachers less;

2. Make individuals feel geographically isolated;

3. Make individuals feel socially isolated;

4. Have difficult working conditions;

5. Have a lack of career advancement opportunities;

6. Have a higher cost of living;

7. Have harsher climates/weather;

8. Are distanced from larger communities and family;

9. Have inadequate shopping and other amenities.

Other major similarities between articles were found in proposed solutions. Consistent solutions that were suggested are:

1. Competitive salaries and benefits;

2. Signing bonuses;

3. College scholarships and/or tuition assistance;

4. Loans and loan forgiveness;

5. Moving expenses and/or relocation reimbursement;

6. Housing incentives;

7. Tax credits for teachers;

8. Increased leave with period of service;

9. Community and in class programs to support new teachers;

10. Grow-your-own teacher;

11. Improved recruitment and hiring practices;

12. Improved school-level support for teachers.

These solutions appear to not be highly successful or are unfeasible to put in place. Though I have seen these same recommendations countlessly in articles and some in practice in Canada, I have failed to find any literature or other evidence to suggest these strategies have worked in practice. Some initiatives have reported to have limited success (tuition assistance), while others may need time to assess the outcome (grow your own teacher). It has become clear by reading these articles that this is not a problem that can be met with a quick fix.

Though some articles face this concern somewhat optimistically, viewing the problem as something which can be overcome with the right policy I think they are mistaken. I believe that Florida paints the best picture of the current situation. Northern Ontario communities will face a tough struggle and will most likely not be able to turn themselves around and attract and retain many young qualified professionals. These people are looking for the opposite of what Northern Ontario communities have to offer. These communities are trapped in their way of life and cannot meet a young person's social and cultural needs. As a result students are not receiving the education they deserve.

The US and Australian situation does differ from the current condition in Ontario now in that these places do not appear to have an abundance of qualified teachers. Right now qualified teachers do exist in Ontario and there are many unemployed or employed in fields unrelated to teaching. The US and Australian articles did not have this situation or failed to mention it. I believe that makes Ontario's condition unique and easier to better the current situation. Northern Ontario might not be able to meet young professional's educational and cultural needs, but it may meet their employment needs.  

Roberts, P. (2004) Staffing an Empty Schoolhouse: Attracting and Retaining Teachers in

Rural, Remote and Isolated Communities. Eric Pearson Study Grant Report

This study addresses the quality of education students are receiving in remote communities throughout Australia. The research argues that the most significant factor in education quality is providing quality and stable staff. A survey was conducted asking teachers in rural areas about the attraction and retention of teachers in rural schools for an appropriate period of time.

The study paid particular attention to:

Teachers who grew up in rural communities returning to work in similar communities;

Indigenous teachers returning to rural communities;

The positive influence of adequate preparation and practice teaching experience in rural schools.

Just like in some northern communities in Ontario there is a large aboriginal population in Australia and the teachers who have been brought in to work are insufficiently trained to teach about the culture. "Between 1994 and 2000 on average only 27 Aboriginal teachers were newly appointed each year - or on average 1.05% of newly appointed teachers each year".

The article addresses that new teachers are attracted to exciting and large metropolitan areas, and many teachers lack the interest in teaching and living in a rural area. "If the living and working conditions of teachers in these communities continue to compare negatively to their metropolitan colleagues there is no hope of attracting them to or retaining them in these communities. There is therefore a strong industrial argument, as well as a human rights argument, for improving the conditions experienced in these communities".

Rural areas attract teachers of a rural upbringing. These must be the main teachers targeted for these communities as they can deal with the situation. "A 1998 investigation by Boylan and McSwan into the profile of long staying rural teachers found that the largest variable in the retention of teachers in rural areas was biographical. Both the literature reviewed for the study and the study itself supported the fact that long staying rural teachers had a rural upbringing themselves and attended a rural teacher education institution. In fact 72.3% of identified long staying rural teachers in the Boylan and McSwan study had a rural upbringing, while some 60% attended a rural teacher education institution. It is conceivable that a majority of students attending a rural teacher education institution themselves had a rural upbringing and are therefore also more likely to take up positions in rural and remote areas. The recruitment of teachers from rural areas and the training of teachers in these areas is a major positive factor in the attraction and retention of teachers in rural and remote schools."

"The bonded teacher training scholarship was extensively used in the past and was one successful method of staffing difficult to staff schools. Unfortunately the bonded scholarship does not address the issue of teacher retention in rural and remote schools, nor does it guarantee the appropriateness of teachers for rural and remote service. Students were given scholarships if they were to sign a contract committing them to work at a school that had difficulty filling positions." This is a feasible idea, to my understanding it currently does not exist in any Ontario and maybe Canadian schools.

In rural and remote areas support programs need to be school based and include adequate time to travel to neighbouring schools to network with colleagues. Whereas beginning teachers in metropolitan areas are able to network with other beginning teachers in their areas and are often in a larger faculty, beginning teachers in rural and remote areas are often the only teacher in their faculty and any collegial support requires travelling large distances. As the recent federal review 'Australia's Teachers: Australia's Future' noted, social concerns are as important as professional ones.

Not only is there a lack of social and networking opportunities for new teachers but there are not much room to grow a successful career. The study states that in many rural Australian communities and remote areas negative social conditions and professional limitations associated with isolation limit many teachers' ability to develop a rewarding career.

The push to bring in new teachers to rural areas needs to be accompanied with a general improvement of the professional conditions in rural and remote schools. Only then will teachers consider these communities as their home, rather than a temporary appointment, and stay beyond the minimum service period. Without a refocusing of the current incentives to attract and retain teachers they will continue to only serve to increase turnover rather than reduce it.

The article makes a number of suggestions to improve the conditions of schools and the teaching profession in rural communities.

· Specifically train teachers for the rural and remote teaching context

· Improve staffing formulas to ensure all subjects are taught by trained teachers and all subjects have the correct number of face to face lessons

· Increase the training and development budget

· Allocate further time to professional development

· Facilitate interaction between teachers in surrounding schools and other areas

· Improve Information Technology

· Support further study by paying HECS and study leave

· Encourage experienced teachers to take up appointments in rural and remote schools

· Provide effective leadership by allowing principals a trial period before accepting positions

· Support beginning teachers with effective mentoring programs

· Improve consultancy support

· Maintain a state wide staffing system to ensure quality

· Extend initiatives to and specifically target casual teachers

· Encourage and support trainee teachers from rural and remote areas

· Increase the number of indigenous teachers

· Specific pre-service training on rural and remote teaching

· Support pre-service practicum in rural and remote schools

· Increase the resources available to rural and remote schools

· Change staffing formulas to ensure all subjects are taught by appropriately trained teachers with the appropriate number of face to face lessons

· Select appropriate teachers

· Include specific standards for rural teaching in any standards developed by a teaching institute

· Guaranteed transfer for professional growth

· Maintain a state wide staffing system so that rural service is not devalued

· Increase inbuilt district relief

· Pre service teacher education scholarships

· Entry scholarships

· Paid HECS

· Paid removals on initial appointment

· Acceptance payments to cover the cost of setting up a home

· Vehicle allowances

· Increased allowances for the cost of living

· Cash payments which increase with the length of service

· Standard rental subsidies

· Increasing rental subsidies with the period of service

· Subsidised utility and food freight costs

· Increased paid travel

· Paid removals on transfer

· Subsidised home loan

· Increased paid personal leave

· Increased paid medical leave

· Increased leave with period of service

· Paid sabbatical / study leave

· Support rural community development

· Community programs to support new teachers

· Effective induction programs

· Provide quality housing

· Limit shared accommodation

· Travel time at each end of vacations

· Enhance staffing formulas to ensure education meets their children s needs

· Enhance incentives to support families

· Guaranteed transfer

· Increased transfer points with the period of service

· Maintain a state wide staffing system to facilitate movement

These suggestions are valid suggestions, however, it would be costly and difficult to implement all of them. This would likely take time to develop.

Jimerson, L. (2003) The Competitive Disadvantage: Teacher Compensation in Rural America. Rural Trust Policy Brief Series on Rural Education.

Rural districts around the United States of America report that many highly qualified new teachers are taking jobs in higher paying districts (or states)-leaving rural districts with less choice of whom to hire-or no candidates at all. The article points out that that more than 31% of all public schools in the United States are in rural areas with more than eight million students attending thus it is important to give the education provided some scrutiny. The article argues that geography should not dictate which children obtain an excellent education and which do not.

The article contends that the teacher shortage dilemma consists of three overlapping elements. First, is the recruitment challenge of increasing the number of potential new candidates for staff vacancies. Second, is the problem of retention (retaining teachers once they are hired). And lastly, teacher shortages are magnified by recent attention to, and demand for, teacher "quality" and thus the need to recruit "highly qualified" teachers. Effective solutions to teacher shortages need to address all three elements. All are critical and all demand attention. For example, it is futile to increase recruitment if new teachers leave within a short time. Likewise, strategies that fill vacancies with under-prepared teachers may only divert money while under-serving children.

Nationally, rural teachers earn less than their counterparts in the US. These national averages also under-estimate the actual differential between rural and non-rural teacher compensation. While certain costs do vary significantly by location, cost adjustment indices do not capture other realities experienced in rural remote settings. For instance, the availability or lack of availability of certain goods may make some cost-of-living adjustments inapplicable. Adjustments for housing cost differences only make sense if good housing exists-and in some rural areas, it doesn't. Also, cost adjustments usually do not account for certain locale-specific needs. For example, poor families in urban areas can meet their needs using public transportation. In remote rural settings, a functional car becomes a necessity. Because of these factors, comprehensive cost-of-living adjustments designed to calibrate for an equal quality of life also need to account for locale differences in availability of goods and services, and extra basic necessities. In many rural areas, remoteness is a costly reality. This is true to Canada as well, teachers receive Northern living allowance, however it fails to meet the gap between the cost of living up North.

The study argues that offering an increased salary will greatly assist rural districts in attracting and retaining highly qualified new teachers. It also argues that an increased salary will improve teacher retention and improve rural/non-rural inequities. The following are suggested incentives as well as suggestions to attain and retain qualified teachers.

1. Competitive Salaries and Benefits;

2. Signing Bonuses;

3. College scholarships and/or tuition assistance (According to NCSL, 28 states offer scholarships / tuition assistance.);

4. Loans and loan forgiveness;

5. Moving expenses and/or relocation reimbursement;

6. Housing incentives;

7. Tax credits for teachers;

8. National Board Certification Support;

9. Combine financial efforts with policies to improve teacher quality and retention;

10. Encourage and support rural people to become rural teachers (A trend among literature);

11. Strengthen rural components of teacher development programs;

12. Support rural-specific research.

McClure, C., Reeves, C. (2004). Rural teacher recruitment and retention: Review of the research and practice literature. Appalachia Educational Laboratory.

This US article examined rural-specific literature identifying four challenges related to recruiting and retaining teachers in rural areas: (1) lower pay; (2) geographic and social isolation; (3) difficult working conditions, such as having to teach classes in multiple subject areas; and (4) No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements for highly qualified teachers (e.g., many rural teachers will need certification in multiple subject areas, and professional development opportunities can sometimes be scarce in rural communities). Collectively, these challenges can place rural schools and districts at a competitive disadvantage in attracting and retaining well-qualified teachers. The article uses literature to also find strategies being used to recruit teachers, retain teachers and reasons why teachers leave.

A survey of literature on state and district strategies revealed five major strategies currently being used for recruiting and retaining teachers: (1) "grow-your-own" initiatives, especially those that help paraprofessionals become certified teachers; (2) targeted incentives directed at teachers willing to teach in schools or subject areas where the need is greatest; (3) improved recruitment and hiring practices; (4) improved school-level support for teachers, including formal induction and mentoring programs; and (5) use of interactive technologies to meet information and professional development needs.

A review of the research and practice literature suggests 14 "promising strategies" for placing high-quality teachers in rural classrooms and keeping them there: (1) collect state and local data on teacher supply and demand, (2) base recruitment efforts on data analysis, (3) increase the pool of candidates by expanding or refining recruitment efforts, (4) include all vital partners in collaborative efforts, (5) offer targeted incentives, (6) evaluate efforts regularly, (7) invest in "grow-your-own" initiatives to develop teachers, (8) encourage universities to customize teacher education programs, (9) include building-level staff in the hiring process, (10) institute formal induction programs, (11) offer incentives for "staying on" past the first year, (12) improve the school's culture and working conditions, (13) involve the community in welcoming new teachers, and (14) invest in leadership development.

Collins (1999), in a review of the literature on rural teacher retention, cited a survey of teacher mobility in one rural district that found four main reasons why teachers leave communities: (1) geographic isolation, (2) climate/weather, (3) distance from larger communities and family, and (4) inadequate shopping (all of which were addressed in my survey) Working conditions cited by teachers as contributing to their decisions to leave include lack of basic resources and materials, lack of a strong professional community, ineffective leadership, and discipline issues. Teachers report that large class sizes and the physical conditions of schools impair teaching. Teachers also report feeling overwhelmed by paperwork and the limited time to plan and prepare for instruction. The problems with retention are problems teachers don't look to teach in Northern Ontario in the first place. Everybody knows the living conditions and they are discouraged from the idea.

Florida, R. (2002). The rise of the creative class. Washington Monthly.

Florida states that the key to economic growth lies not just in the ability to attract the creative class, but to translate that underlying advantage into creative economic outcomes in the form of new ideas, new high-tech businesses and regional growth.

Places that thrive in today's world tend to be plug-and-play communities where anyone can fit in quickly. These are places where people can find opportunity, build support structures, be themselves, and not get stuck in any one identity. This is NOT Northern Onatario.

Other cities like the ones found in Northern Ontario are trapped by their past. They are unwilling or unable to do what it takes to attract the creative class. The late economist Mancur Olson long ago noted that the decline of nations and regions is a product of an organizational and cultural hardening of the arteries he called "institutional sclerosis." These communities find it difficult and often times impossible to adopt new organizational and cultural patterns, regardless of how beneficial they might be. Consequently, innovation and growth shift to new places, which can adapt to and harness these shifts for their benefit. This is something that just won't change; Northern Ontario will not shift to become a place of creativity.

Young workers have typically been thought of as transients who contribute little to a city's bottom line. But in the creative age, they matter for two reasons. First, they are workhorses. They are able to work longer and harder, and are more prone to take risks, precisely because they are young and childless. Is risk taking something that is important to the teaching profession? I would say no. However, these risk takers are the type of people who can change around a community. In rapidly changing industries, it's often the most recent graduates who have the most up-to-date skills (not true in education). Second, people are staying single longer. The average age of marriage for both men and women has risen some five years over the past generation. College-educated people postpone marriage longer than the national averages. Among this group, one of the fastest growing categories is the never-been-married. To prosper in the creative age, regions have to offer a people climate that satisfies this group's social interests and lifestyle needs, as well as address those of other groups and Northern Ontario communities don't have this to offer.

Collins, T., (1999). Attracting and retaining teachers in rural areas. ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools Charleston WV.

This article examines the problem from a legislative and policy perspective. It suggests strategies to address the problem, noting sample programs from several states.

The article makes mention to a survey of teacher mobility (94 past and current teachers in a rural British Columbia school district) found that teachers leave communities because of geographic isolation, weather, distance from larger communities and family, and inadequate shopping which is a very consistent trend among the articles.

The article addresses that few states have developed specific programs to address the problems of rural teacher recruitment and retention. If the national teacher supply-and-demand problem is the result of distribution, not the number of teachers, states and rural school districts have an opportunity to put their best foot forward and attract quality teachers. The Education Commission of the States (1999) outlines a number of strategies for states: offer programs for high school and college students; recruit midcareer professionals from other fields; forgive scholarship and loan debts in exchange for teaching service; make a special effort to place teachers in low-performing schools suffering economic hardships; and create programs, positions, and agencies to promote recruitment. The article argues that rural teacher shortage affects all subject areas but particularly math, science, and special education.

The author contends that regardless of state policies, rural schools and their communities have many tools at their disposal for recruiting and retaining teachers. They can create local programs, possibly in cooperation with a nearby college or university, to attract local youth into teaching. Districts can develop orientation programs and mentoring, and support joint school-community efforts to help new teachers feel more at home. Most importantly, schools and communities should publicize the advantages of teaching in a rural community. I, however, believe this is easier said than done.

Northern Ontario Needs 5,000 New Teachers, College Says (2001) Ontario College of Teachers website

This article from 2001 discusses the need for teachers in Ontario for 2010. However the reality is quite different there is a surplus. The correct prediction is the lack of teachers in Northern Ontario. With this prediction it makes me wonder what they put into place to try to combat the teachers leaving. "There will be jobs aplenty for new teachers in Northern Ontario as retirements continue to soar and the teacher shortage shows no sign of slowing down until the end of the decade, says the Ontario College of Teachers."

This article mostly contained quotes and statistics that may be of use to the study. Many are listed below.

"Northern Ontario will be the hardest hit in terms of teacher retirement percentage among all Ontario regions until 2010. In the northeast, 46 per cent of teachers will retire from now until 2010 and 43 per cent in the northwest."

"English public schools in North-eastern Ontario will need to hire close to 2,100 new teachers to replace retiring teachers between now and 2010. The English Catholic boards will need an additional 772. French Catholic boards will need close to 800 new teachers while the French public boards will need close to 100."

"The number of retirements we have seen in the past two years confirms the College's 1998 forecast of a severe teacher shortage for years to come," said College Registrar Joe Atkinson. "We now have the ability to determine the regions and the teaching specialities that will be hardest hit."

"We also have to take into account that a significant number of teachers leave the profession every year for other reasons maternity leaves, for example -- and need to be replaced. Retirement numbers are really only part of the picture."

They predicted there would be a lack of qualified teachers but this is not the case today. There is a surplus of qualified teachers, there just aren't many willing to teach in Northern Ontario. "And we're getting to the end of the pool of additional candidates previously certified teachers and teacher education graduates from previous years that we relied on in previous years to come back to teaching, making the situation more critical from now on."

"By 2010, English and French boards throughout Northern Ontario will be looking at replacing close to 3,900 teachers at the Primary-Junior level (Kindergarten to Grade 6) and 2,000 at the Intermediate-Senior (Grades 7 to 12) level."

"Secondary schools will have the difficult task of replacing 459 teachers with qualifications in English, 386 in Physical Education, 337 in History, 294 in Math, 279 in French and 232 in Geography. The substantially lower numbers of retirements in

science Physics (41), Chemistry (43) and Biology (76) mask the difficulty in recruiting teachers with those qualifications and the fierce competition from the private sector."

"The College's mandate is to protect the public interest. In this instance, it is most certainly in the public interest to ensure that every classroom in Ontario is staffed by a qualified and a certified teacher." This may be their best interest but what have they done since 2001 to ensure this?

Monk, D. H. (2007). Recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers in rural areas. The Future of Children. 17(1).

In examining recruitment and retention of teachers in rural America, David Monk begins by noting the numerous possible characteristics of rural communities-small size, sparse settlement, distance from population concentrations, and an economic reliance on agricultural industries that are increasingly using seasonal and immigrant workers to minimize labour costs. Many, though not all, rural areas, he says, are seriously impoverished.

Classes in rural schools are relatively small, and teachers tend to report satisfaction with their work environments and relatively few problems with discipline. But teacher turnover is often high, and hiring can be difficult. Monk in presenting a number of charts from school staffing statistics observes that rural schools have a below-average share of highly trained teachers. Compensation in rural schools tends to be low, perhaps because of a lower fiscal capacity in rural areas, thus complicating efforts to attract and retain teachers.

Several student characteristics, including relatively large shares of students with special needs and with limited English skills and lower shares of students attending college, can also make it difficult to recruit and retain high-quality teachers. Other challenges include meeting the needs of highly mobile children of low-income migrant farm workers.

With respect to public policy, Monk asserts a need to focus on a subcategory of what might be called hard-to-staff rural schools rather than to develop a blanket set of policies for all rural schools. In particular, he recommends a focus on such indicators as low teacher qualifications, teaching in fields far removed from the area of training, difficulty in hiring, high turnover, a lack of diversity among teachers in the school, and the presence of migrant farm workers' children.

Successful efforts to stimulate economic growth in these areas would be highly beneficial. He also calls attention to the potential for modern telecommunication and computing technologies to offset some of the drawbacks associated with teaching in rural areas.

Other options would be to offer higher wages and benefits to teachers who are willing to work in hard-to-staff schools. The drawbacks associated with rural school teaching could, in theory, be offset by higher wages or improved benefits, or both, thereby improving the ability of officials in these areas to recruit and retain teachers comparable to their peers in other schools. For example, the article mentions how Mississippi offers an Employer-Assisted Housing Teacher Program that provides interest-free loans to licensed teachers in areas of critical shortage, along with a loan repayment program for student teachers who teach in rural areas of the state.

The drawbacks to this approach are many. First, it could be prohibitively expensive to try to "buy your way around" a deeply problematic feature of rural life or schools. To the degree people dislike being isolated, for example, paying them to put up with isolation could be expensive. Moreover, no one knows how large the offsets would need to be or who should bear the burden of the cost. Perhaps the biggest problem of all is that a willingness to work in a hard-to-staff school for an agreed-upon bonus is no guarantee of effectiveness. More promising, perhaps, are efforts to remove or modify the underlying conditions that are making the school difficult to staff. For example, policies in other government sectors affect the growth of bilingual populations in certain areas, and changes in these policies could have implications for schools. Presumably, steps can be taken to avoid sudden influxes of impoverished students with little English in certain schools. Or, if such population changes do take place, steps can be taken to better meet the needs of these students. In a number of areas, relatively simple improvements in basic human resource processes could yield improvements.

One way to help solve the "problem" of the localized teacher market is a grow-your-own strategy. The idea is to take advantage of aspiring teachers' tendency to prefer to return "home" to teach, by working harder to cultivate interest and skill in teaching in areas with hard-to-staff schools. There are urban as well as rural variants of this strategy, and various writers have discussed the possibilities, although more typically from an urban perspective. Many states are pursuing grow-your-own strategies with a rural focus. One promising approach involves working with paraprofessional aides already employed in rural schools to develop the requisite teaching skills. States are also finding that partnerships with colleges and universities that place aspiring teachers in rural areas can help break down negative stereotypes about teaching in rural schools.

Finally, a better understanding of the causes of staffing difficulties-in rural, urban, or suburban schools and districts-will allow policymakers to develop more effective and presumably less costly policy interventions.


"Rural communities are also associated with aging populations and with population and job loss."

"But rural communities are also associated with positive attributes, such as beauty and serenity."

"Several organizational features of rural schools directly affect teacher recruitment and retention. Among the most important are demographic characteristics of the teachers, teachers' workloads, and teachers' salaries."

"Some rural schools succeed admirably at attracting and retaining teachers whose qualifications are comparable to those of teachers at other kinds of schools. But for many rural schools, the quality of life in the community is lacking, working conditions are problematic, student needs are great, support services are limited, and professional support networks are inadequate. Salaries are lower for teachers in rural schools for many interconnected reasons, and certain types of rural schools struggle to appoint qualified teachers or make do with teachers who have fewer qualifications and face higher turnover rates. Moreover, teacher experience is also more limited in the smallest schools-a disturbing finding, given that teacher experience is emerging as one of the most important predictors of teaching effectiveness in the research literature. And there is some reason to fear that inequalities in rural schools are becoming larger, particularly in light of the changing demographics of rural areas and the increases in the prevalence of bilingual students from impoverished backgrounds. When it comes to public policy, this record suggests the need for a strategy focusing on a subcategory of what might be called hard-to-staff rural schools, rather than a blanket set of policies for all rural schools. In particular, the focus should be directly on such indicators as low teacher qualifications, teaching in fields far removed from the area of training, difficulty in hiring, high turnover, and a lack of diversity among teachers in the school, to name just a few. Efforts to identify hard-to-staff rural schools could parallel a similar effort focused on urban and suburban schools."