Promoting educational change in rural Missouri

William Woods EDU

Experts tell us that when it comes to teaching in rural schools, both the challenges and the chance to make a real and lasting difference can be great.

With a statewide population of over a quarter of a million rural students­, Missouri offers new teachers – including many graduating from William Woods University – opportunities to teach in smaller, remote and often underfunded districts.

The U.S. Department of Education has identified counties within Missouri as teacher shortage areas of need, including Carroll, Mercer, Reynolds and other rural counties.

A University of Iowa study found that “when schools face severe limitations in external resources (e.g., socioeconomic constraints), as is common with geographically remote rural schools, they must rely on other kinds of resources to support the goals of achievement and persistence.”

Cue: Teachers.

The environment of support a teacher generates in his or her classroom can change the way students view their own potential and increase their self-motivation.

Examples include offering students options, respecting their schedule and what is important to them, respecting students’ feelings and questions, and offering learning activities that fit students’ personalities and interests.

Change can also come from a school-wide perspective, a model seen used by George Wood, former principal of Federal Hocking Secondary School in rural Ohio and now superintendent of Federal Hocking School District along with founder of the Forum for Education and Democracy. In this case, the key to enacting change in the success and motivation of students came with changing the curriculum and culture of the school as a whole.

This approach involved promoting student democracy by allowing students a role in decision-making processes, such as teacher selection, organizing school events and holding seats on other committees. Changes like these led to an increase in graduation rates.

Students in any of the William Woods University Education leadership programs have countless avenues to use their degree and to ignite change wherever they go.

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