Preparing pre-service teachers for rural schools has been a challenge in the field of education for more than a century, and issues specific to the rural teacher workforce remain a persistent and salient challenge in the United States and globally. This task is complex and multifaceted, conflated with a wide range of contextual variations in salaries, community amenities, geographic or professional distances, technology access, health disparities, and poverty rates. Additionally, institutions of higher education have wavered in their interest in and commitment to rural teacher education, though there is a growing awareness of the need to attend to the experiences of students in rural communities and the educators who teach them. The literature and research on rural teacher preparation has typically been organized around the three challenges of preparation (post-secondary education), recruitment (youth aspirations to teach, would-be career changers interested in teaching, and division-level efforts to staff schools with effective teachers), and retention (providing pre-service and new teachers with learning experiences and support that increase the likelihood of remaining in the profession in rural schools). Literature on rural teacher preparation and evidence related to “preparation, recruitment, and retention” can be repositioned to offer new insights focused on solutions. Three focus areas—Curriculum, Context, and Conveyance—serve to answer the question: What makes a teacher preparation program rural? Curriculum serves as a core component for preparing rural teachers. A rural curriculum for a teacher education program includes introducing students to content and experiences, including field experiences, that have been designed to support their professional and personal success in rural schools and communities. Context is understanding the strengths and assets of the rural places, communities, and cultures in which pre-service teachers are preparing to live, learn, and teach. Context allows us to consider the unique environments in which rural teachers live and work. Conveyance is the means by which potential teachers have access to teacher preparation programs, that is, how programs are delivered and structured to provide access to potential teachers in rural communities (online, in person, alternative and traditional programs, etc.). A focus on Curriculum, Context, and Conveyance allows school leaders and education researchers to resist deficit ideologies and to consider how rural communities are asset-rich environments, ultimately increasing resources that prepare teachers for, and build from the strengths of, rural communities.
Amy Price Azano, Jayne Downey, and Devon Brenner
Linda Blanton and Marleen Pugach
Dual certification refers to a teaching license both for general primary and/or secondary education and special needs education simultaneously. This term is unique to the United States, where licensure policy has traditionally offered options for teacher candidates to earn an initial stand-alone license in either general or special needs education, and contrasts with initial teacher education policy patterns outside the United States, where teachers are not typically permitted to earn an initial license for special needs education alone. Various forms of dual certification have existed in the United States for many decades, but until recently they were not the norm. Contemporary teacher educators and policymakers in the United States have adopted and encouraged dual certification as a way of supporting the preparation of teachers for effective inclusive teaching. As a result, dual certification is viewed as a means of restructuring and expanding the entirety of the preservice, initial teacher education curriculum to become highly responsive both to the increasing diversity of students and to the wider range and more complex needs of students who struggle in school, among them students with special needs. Because dual certification addresses the vital question of how best to prepare initial teachers for inclusive teaching, its fundamental, underlying concerns transcend specific national structural or policy issues regarding licensure. Instead, dual certification reflects a focus on the content of initial teacher preparation writ large regarding what kinds of redesigned, reconceptualized clinical, course, and curricular experiences might be most effective in preparing teachers for high-quality inclusive teaching practice. Dual certification calls into question the nature of teacher expertise, challenging basic beliefs about where the responsibility of general education teachers ends and where that of special needs education teachers begins. In this way, dual certification can be viewed as a specific national policy vehicle that addresses common international concerns for developing appropriate preservice curricula that are responsive to the demands of inclusive educational practice. Implementing dual certification is not without its challenges, however, as reflected in some of the early and ongoing attempts at implementation. Therefore, it is critical both to anticipate potential pitfalls as well as to identify potential solutions that are appropriate to the fundamental purposes of preparing teachers for inclusive practice.