Arizona rural schools struggle with teacher recruitment

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Clara Lovell.

Veronica Howe teaches her 6th grade class at St. David middle school, a rural school located in Cochise County. Photo by Clara Lovell/Arizona Sonoran News

A continuous lack of qualified teachers has forced several Cochise County school districts to become creative when recruiting teachers, relying heavily on a “grow-your-own” strategy.

“There is not much we can do as far as money is concerned, but what we can do are things from the heart,” Cochise County Superintendent Jacqui Clay said. “We let teachers know that they are not just another number out here.”

The Cochise County average teacher salary was $44,370 for fiscal year 2017, according to data obtained from the Arizona Auditor General. That’s a $13,0000 difference from the national average of $58,353.

According to a recent study published by the Center for Public Education, rural students often become rural teachers, with 80 percent of teachers staying within just 13 miles of their hometown when seeking employment. However, with fewer Americans choosing to study education and more teachers choosing to leave the profession, rural districts face the challenge of getting teachers into their schools.

In a 2017 national survey of college freshman conducted by UCLA, the number of students who said they would major in education reached an all-time low, with only 4.2 percent planning on studying education, as compared to 11 percent in 1971.

Teachers are leaving for a number of reasons, one being low pay. Cochise County teachers are being offered non-monetary incentives to teach including leadership opportunities, professional development programs and comp time as a reward for achievements.

A 20 percent pay increase for teachers passed in the last legislative session, has not changed the number of teaching vacancies in Arizona. The plan included a 10 percent pay increase this year and plans to increase teachers’ salaries another 10 percent by 2020. According to a recent study conducted by Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association, 1,547 of teacher positions remained vacant as of August 2018, and 2,980 vacancies were filled using alternative methods or by individuals not meeting standard teaching requirements.

“There has to be a real want to come here, someone specifically looking for a small district or rural area,” said Veronica Howe, who teaches sixth grade in the St. David Union School District.

St. David has a two-school campus that serves 500 students, from preschool to high school. Howe has been in the education field for over 24 years, and she said rural teachers are often very loyal to their small communities. However, when a teacher chooses to leave, it can become stressful finding someone to take their position.

Source: Center for Public Education- Out of the loop. Visual by Clara Lovell.

As reported by the Center for Public Education, rural schools are more likely to report difficulty in filling vacancies in STEM positions and have an even harder time recruiting faculty for English as a second language programs.

“Being so close to the border, we have a very big need for ESL teachers,” Clay said. “We are constantly looking for bilingual candidates.”

As for STEM programs, many Cochise County districts have taken advantage of the rural surroundings and have collaborated with local colleges and community professionals in providing STEM programs that involve plant and farm science.

Clay said keeping teachers in rural districts involves the whole community.

“When we include all people, it helps make our teachers feel significant … we don’t want them to go away,” she said. “We want them right here.”

Clara Lovell is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at

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Sexual Harassment Rampant in Science, New Report Reveals

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Ilana Novick.

A new report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) reveals that half of women studying and working in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) positions at American universities have been subject to sexual harassment. And, as STAT, an online journal of biotech, pharma and life sciences, reports, “there’s no evidence that current policies are significantly helping to stem the issue.”

Researchers spent two years surveying female students and faculty who were the targets of sexual harassment, compiling data from women at the University of Texas and Pennsylvania State University school systems, representing 10,000 undergraduates, graduate students and female faculty.

As The Washington Post observed, “Between 20 percent and 50 percent of female students in science, engineering and medicine, and more than 50 percent of faculty, said they had experienced harassment.”

Researchers also found that such harassment was more common for engineering and medical students than it was for students in non-science-oriented fields.

STAT notes how the results of this treatment impacted respondents’ personal and professional lives:

Victims interviewed for the report said they had skipped professional meetings and social situations, dropped out of research projects, and left jobs, just to avoid harassment. They described being mortified, devastated, and outraged in some cases. Many didn’t formally report their harassment, often for fear of retaliation. And some who did said the drawn-out proceedings drained them of precious time and energy to do their work.

Some scientists welcomed the reports’ findings. Heidi Lockwood, a professor of philosophy at Southern Connecticut State University, told The Post that the 300-page report is “a spectacular and encyclopedic piece of research and writing, and will no doubt serve as the touchstone for research, policy and advocacy in this area for years to come.”

Others, while grateful for quantitative data to back up their lived experience, questioned whether NASEM was willing to reckon with its own history of harassment accusations. Inder Verma, formerly a cancer biologist at the Salk Institute and editor in chief of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, resigned from both positions in the last few weeks following sexual harassment allegations.

Geoff Marcy, another NASEM member, resigned from his position at the University of California at Berkeley following a 2015 Buzzfeed article that revealed the university investigated student claims of harassment and found that Marcy had violated the school’s conduct policies.

But NASEM has not revoked Verma or Marcy’s memberships. As BethAnn McLaughlin, an assistant professor of neurology at Vanderbilt University, told The Post, the lack of action “certainly undermines the credibility of the National Academy to implement meaningful change.”

Still, the report offers recommendations for moving forward. They include hiring more women and people of color, especially in leadership positions; creating stronger anti-sexual harassment policies and being more transparent about them; providing more support services to victims of sexual harassment; and offering stricter enforcement of federal anti-discrimination policies such as Title VII.

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