News: Grant to Help Rural Teacher Persistence

CCU Awarded Grant to Help Increase Rural Teacher Persistence

Colorado Christian University has been awarded a $106,515 grant through the Colorado Department of Higher Education to address rural novice teacher retention. The funding comes from the department's Addressing Teacher Shortages — Putting the Plan Into Action grant program.

CCU's proposal, Project LINK: Linking a professional Learning Community with Rural Novice Teacher Persistence, will enable the School of Education Professions in CCU's College of Adult and Graduate Studies to strengthen the persistence of novice rural Colorado teachers. CCU will partner with Colorado River BOCES to support 25 teachers currently participating in induction programs at either Garfield County School District 16 or Garfield County School District Re2.

Project LINK will enhance the current teacher induction programs by providing long-distance supervision and support, in addition to an online professional learning community (PLC) that includes monthly professional development topics, mentoring support, and CCU's graduate level course, EDU 540: Theories of Language, Learning and Teaching. The coursework and related assignments support the unique needs of teachers in rural communities through both available synchronous faculty discussions of rural needs and asynchronous course delivery provided for the PLC community of novice teachers.

"CCU recognizes that Colorado is facing a critical teacher shortage that especially impacts rural areas where low compensation, affordable housing, isolation, and limited professional development opportunities discourage new teachers from pursuing and accepting teaching positions," said Dr. Sarah Scherling, vice president of Academic Affairs for CCU's College of Adult and Graduate Studies. "We are delighted for this partnership opportunity for CCU and the Colorado River BOCES."

In 2014-2015, Colorado teacher turnover overall was 17 percent with rural areas experiencing higher turnover than urban and suburban locations, according to a report from the Center for Public Education 2018. Formed in July 2017, Colorado River BOCES serves four school districts. Two of the districts encompass both rural and remote rural student populations that are challenged with teacher turnover: Garfield County School District 16 experienced a teacher turnover rate of 18.75 percent in 2017-2018, while Garfield County School District Re2 experienced a teacher turnover rate of 19.10 percent in the same year.

CCU has a proven track record in delivering high quality online teacher education degrees, endorsements, and certificates. The partnership with Colorado River BOCES and its executive director Troy A. Lange has the University well positioned to implement the grant. Dr. Wendy Wendover, who will serve as the project director, has expertise in teaching, mentoring, and supporting online teacher candidates. Dr. Wendover has served as the dean for the School for Education Professions for more than eight years, and oversaw the move to online education programs for the College of Adult and Graduate Studies at Colorado Christian University. Kathy Ann Johnson will serve as the project manager, coordinating all aspects of the project including in-seat and online PLC logistics, speaker scheduling, and resource management.

Project LINK's PLC will be made available through the use of new technology. Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) began as a telehealth training model in New Mexico, sharing knowledge to provide best practice care to address health disparities in rural and underserved areas. In partnership with the Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver, ECHO DU has applied this model to rural education. Grant funds will be used to hire DU as the instructional designer of the PLC and provide CCU and Colorado River BOCES with access to the ECHO DU platform containing a variety of expert educational knowledge and content.