Kathy Randolph, a visiting assistant professor in the Education Department at Colorado College, has received a $42,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Higher Education to help develop a college-rural school district partnership. This partnership will facilitate early experiences in rural settings for future teachers, provide districts with new teachers who are familiar with how rural schools function, and create future opportunities for teachers in rural districts to receive training and support from Colorado College.
Randolph, who notes that nearly half the nation’s school districts are in rural areas, will work with four rural school districts near Colorado Springs — Calhan, Ellicott, Miami-Yoder, and Peyton — to pilot the field experiences. An existing course, Introduction to the K-12 Classroom Culture, which is available to all CC students and draws more than 50 students a year, will provide the opportunity for students to engage in 30 hours of early field experience during Block 5.
The grant also enables CC to hold two teacher workshops in February, hosting up to 65 representative teachers and administrators from the nine rural Board of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES) member districts. All nine rural districts are less than 75 minutes from Colorado College.
Randolph and others will focus on creating a needs assessment to disseminate to teachers in all nine districts. This will help to inform the development of a CC course for education major and minors called Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners in a Rural Setting, part of which will take place in one of the rural districts. This will provide field experiences for CC’s teacher candidates to work with culturally and linguistically diverse students in a rural setting.
Colorado College’s Education Department currently is in its second year of a National Science Foundation Noyce Scholarship Program. The program recruits and prepares future science, computer science, and mathematics majors to become teachers. CC’s partnership with rural districts will allow for the recruitment and placement of these STEM teachers in rural districts, thus addressing a priority in area schools.
Often rural schools struggle to recruit and retain qualified teachers, with Pikes Peak BOCES member districts having a 17.4 percent teacher turnout rate. Randolph believes the partnership can serve as a model for early recruitment of teachers and competent preparation to teach in rural settings in order to reduce the annual teacher turnover rate.
The partnership also provides Master of Arts in Teaching students with the opportunity to complete a fellowship while conducting master’s thesis research with teachers and students in a rural setting.