Wisconsin Rural Schools Pursue Homegrown Solutions to Teacher Shortage
A NORC study found that Wisconsin’s rural school districts aren’t waiting for state or federal policymakers to help ease a worsening teacher shortage—they are developing homegrown solutions.
Unfilled teaching positions are expected to double in Wisconsin rural schools.
Nearly half of Wisconsin students attend schools in rural districts, which often struggle to compete with larger communities in more urban areas that can offer higher teacher salaries. And according to data from Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance, Wisconsin’s rural schools had an average of two unfilled positions in the 2022-2023 school year and were likely to face a shortage of more than four teachers per school in the 2023-2024 school year. In partnership with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin, NORC visited five school districts, interviewed staff and students, and surveyed rural superintendents and coordinators of local student-to-teacher pipeline programs about their teacher recruitment and hiring strategies.
NORC’s mixed-methods study examined “home-grown” training and recruiting programs.
Our mixed-methods study found that many rural communities are turning to a diverse set of “grow-your-own” teacher development programs, particularly the Educators Rising program. During visits to five rural districts, NORC spoke with local educators leading Educators Rising Chapters in their communities about how they organize activities for middle and high school students interested in teaching.
Many schools are taking a “do-it-yourself” approach, but few have tracked success.
Many districts are taking a do-it-yourself approach to building a teacher pipeline with little funding or outside support. Few educators leading pipeline programs like Educators Rising receive stipends or support from local colleges offering teaching degrees. A few rural districts also reported banding together to create joint Educators Rising programs or other multidistrict initiatives focused on providing scholarships and resources for students from their communities who want to return to teach. But so far, few districts have tracked the success of these programs.
Our study shows that Educators Rising programs, particularly multidistrict versions, are relatively low-cost models for addressing local teacher shortages. Collecting and analyzing more data on the programs and their effectiveness may help district leaders and policymakers further refine them.
This article is from our flagship newsletter, NORC Now. NORC Now keeps you informed of the full breadth of NORC’s work, the questions we help our clients answer, and the issues we help them address.