By Aaron Butler, Ph.D. - December 14, 2022
Problems and opinions are everywhere. You don’t even have to look very hard to find them. If you’re ever in doubt, social media, cable news networks, newspapers, and even your neighbor will gladly share their opinion and which problem is most worthy of your attention at any specific moment in time.
Unfortunately, real-world examples and practical solutions to solving all these problems are often in short supply. Sure, we always hear about that “one simple trick” that would fix most of the problems we face as a country or state or school. Calls for more of this or less of that are too familiar. However, you may read many of those proposed solutions and wonder: Is this idea practical for schools? Has this idea actually been implemented with any success in a school or district like mine? If you’re like me, you want the answer to those questions to be “yes.”
The Region 9 Comprehensive Center (R9CC) and our advisory board worked together over the past year to identify a few high-priority challenges facing schools in our states. These real-world challenges include teacher recruitment and retention, student transitions, preparing rural students for the workplace of the future, and meeting the diverse learning needs of students. These collaborative efforts produced a set of resources with practical recommendations and promising practices that can be seen in action in our states.
Teacher Recruitment and Retention
The R9CC advisory board members in the diverse teacher and leader workforce affinity group discussed innovative strategies to attract, prepare, and retain the next generation of teachers. This resource outlines innovative ideas shared by advisory board members and accompanying research.
R9CC staff and advisory board members provide insights and strategies that help answer four key questions being asked in our states and nationwide: Why should schools and school districts address existing cultural and/or ethnic mismatches between students and teachers? How can professional development opportunities close gaps through recruiting and retaining a diverse educator workforce? How can states build a more affordable and inclusive education system that supports graduates from teacher preparation programs? When should talent development begin?
R9CC met with members of District 150 and the Grow Your Own program in Peoria, Illinois, to learn more about their efforts to recruit and retain teachers. This resource features the story of how the district is working to answer the question: How can we create a diverse teacher workforce pipeline that mirrors the demographics of the students in the district?
Effective Student Transitions
The R9CC advisory board developed four recommendations for youth-serving adults working with students who are transitioning back to a traditional school environment or are at risk of dropping out. Our hope is that these four recommendations can be used to better support students and reduce the barriers that they face when transitioning back to, or struggling in, a traditional school environment.
Preparing Rural Students for the Workplace of the Future
R9CC met with staff from the Osage Community School District in Osage, Iowa, to learn about their efforts to ensure students are “Future Ready“ through an innovative elementary computer science program. This resource features the story of how this rural district is tackling the question, How can we ensure our students have the skills they need to succeed in the workplace of the future?
Meeting the Diverse Learning Needs of Students
R9CC met with staff from Gordon Bush Alternative Center in East St. Louis, Illinois, to learn about their competency-based education program. This resource shares the story of how this school is answering the question, How can we ensure our teaching methods meet the specific needs of everyone in our diverse student body?
So, what’s next?
I just shared a lot of information with you—probably too much to read through in one afternoon. Fortunately, I have one more practical set of recommendations for you to consider over the rest of this month or maybe even as an early New Year’s resolution. They go like this:
- Block some time on your calendar this month and continuing into 2023 to read and reflect. Whether it’s one afternoon, an hour every Friday, or even a Saturday morning with a cup of coffee—it doesn’t matter. The important thing is to schedule some quiet time for yourself.
- Next, use that time to read through these resources and reflect on how relevant the questions we shared are for you and your school or district.
- Finally, write down your next steps for any of the challenges that resonate with you, and then take a first step when you return in January. Hopefully, these simple steps will result in a breakthrough for any related challenges facing your school or district AND you’ll have a new, productive habit in place to get 2023 off to a great start!
Do you have any promising practices in your school or district that you think your peers would like to learn about? Do you have any takeaways or next steps that you plan to take after reading these recommendations and examples? Either way, please reach out to let us know what you’re up to or to find out how R9CC can support you.
Aaron R. Butler, PhD, is a former high school math and science teacher and school administrator. He now serves as the director for the Region 9 Comprehensive Center and a principal technical assistance consultant at the American Institutes for Research. Dr. Butler has more than 20 years of experience supporting school improvement in public education spanning school, district, state, and national levels.