Mizzou boosts rural education

school bus with tiger tail
Illustration by Blake Dinsdale / Sources: Adobe Stock

Published on Show Me Mizzou Sept. 4, 2023

Rural Missouri school districts face significant challenges with teacher shortages, leading to empty classrooms, overcrowding and a lack of qualified educators, particularly in math and science. 

To address this, Mizzou’s College of Education and Human Development launched the Missouri Rural Initiative, aiming to enhance programming and outreach. One highlight is expanding online offerings to improve access for those unable to relocate. 

The traditional route to teacher certification in Missouri involves a four-year course of study involving student teaching, assessment tests and earning an education degree, but this is impractical for rural individuals without nearby colleges offering such degrees. As an alternative, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education offers a route to certification, allowing noncertified teachers to teach while completing required coursework. 

“Expanding Mizzou’s online offerings in education can make a big difference in rural areas, positively impacting students and schools,” says Sam Otten, chair of the Department of Learning, Teaching and Curriculum. Currently, the state has 3,579 vacant teaching positions or positions filled by non-accredited individuals, representing over 5% of full-time teaching roles. Rural districts, constituting nearly 60% of Missouri’s 519 school districts, are the hardest hit.

Chris Riley-Tillman, Dean of the College of Education and Human Development, says that the initiative is part of an amplified effort to better understand and improve education in Missouri’s farm communities and small towns.

“The field of education has moved away from researching rural schools,” he says. “As a land grant institution and a university located in the middle of Missouri, we have the historic goal of impacting and bettering lives in rural communities. This college is expanding our research and impact in a world-class manner, and I’m excited to see the difference we will make.”

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