A Landscape Analysis of “Grow Your Own” Educator Strategies in Wisconsin Rural Schools

WCER Working Paper No 2023-4

Bradley Carl and Jenny Seelig


August 2023, 41 pp.

ABSTRACT: A large share of Wisconsin’s 400+ school districts are rural, and nearly half of all students enrolled in public schools statewide attend rural schools. Persistent challenges faced by rural districts in attracting and retaining educators, however, are contributing to an increasingly dire situation for the state’s rural communities. This report summarizes findings from a yearlong research project investigating strategies being used by rural districts to address educator shortages, including a diverse set of “grow your own” (GYO) initiatives which involve school districts working with educator preparation programs and other local partners to identify, recruit, and prepare local candidates to become educators. Our mixed-methods research design draws upon two statewide surveys (of rural superintendents and local site coordinators of the Educators Rising GYO program), along with site visits to five rural districts, to accomplish two main goals: first, to identify strategies being used by rural districts to attract, recruit, and hire teachers; and second, to describe the landscape of GYO initiatives being utilized by rural Wisconsin districts and local partners to address educator shortages. Broadly speaking, our work suggests that rural school districts are not waiting on state or federal policymakers to solve longstanding staffing challenges for them, but instead are actively engaged in implementing a mix of national GYO programs such as Educators Rising and “homegrown” GYO initiatives as one solution to chronic educator shortages. Not surprisingly, a distinct set of both successes and challenges have emerged as rural districts attempt to implement, launch, sustain, and scale up GYO initiatives that meet their needs.

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keywords: teacher recruitment, educator shortages, rural schools