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Rural Schools in Michigan Will Have More Certified Teachers Thanks to Grant

LANSING – The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) will help address certified teacher shortages in rural school districts through a $15 million grant that it has awarded to Central Michigan University (CMU).

“Our rural school districts have faced an exacerbated shortage of certified teachers, in part because they are often not located close to colleges and universities with educator licensing programs,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael F. Rice. “Providing a no-cost credentialing hub will reduce barriers to educator certificates for people who have talent and a passion for education but have not become certified due to geography and cost.”

With this grant, CMU will lead a consortium of rural school districts and Michigan educator preparation universities and colleges to provide a unique approach to support educators in completing licensing requirements. Existing school staff who are not yet certified and prospective teachers in rural communities will have a chance to earn educator licenses at no cost through a credentialing hub that CMU is developing.

The initiative is called the Michigan Consortium for Addressing Rural Education Expansion and Retention (MiCAREER) Resource Hub. CMU plans to support hundreds of educators with assistance toward initial certification and ongoing professional learning in the first two years of the hub’s operation.

“The need to attract, develop, and retain educators in rural regions is crucial for the health and well-being of children, families, communities, and our state,” said Dr. Paula Lancaster, dean of the College of Education and Human Services at CMU. “We are proud to lead collaborative efforts and build a truly unique consortium of educator preparation programs and grades preschool-12 school districts that will address the persistent problem of educator shortages in rural communities across our state.”

Following advocacy from MDE, this grant was made possible through an investment in the state’s fiscal year 2024 budget, approved by the Michigan Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. It will help Michigan achieve Goal 7 of the Top 10 Strategic Education Plan, to increase the numbers of certified teachers in areas of shortage.

While the Metro Detroit and Grand Rapids regions have access to a number of educator preparation programs nearby, that’s not the case in some rural areas – particularly in Northern Michigan.

A “roadmap for state policy” to address educational opportunities in rural Michigan says that teacher recruitment and retention are among the key challenge areas for the state’s rural school districts. The report from Michigan State University’s College of Education recommends “rural-conscious” educational policies because universal policies will not meet the unique challenges facing rural schools.

“In a state as diverse as Michigan, with almost 100,000 square miles, more than 800 local school districts, and 56 intermediate school districts, one size doesn’t fit all,” Dr. Rice added. “The MiCAREER Hub is an important, collaborative means of helping rural districts build or strengthen Grow Your Own pipelines into the teaching profession.”

“CMU has gathered a strong consortium of grades preschool-12 and university partners, ensuring the MiCAREER Hub's work addresses the unique challenges rural districts face in attracting and retaining highly skilled educators," said Superintendent Tara Mager of the Clare-Gladwin Regional Educational Service District. “Children from Clare and Gladwin counties and from rural communities around the state will benefit from this promising initiative.”

CMU’s MiCAREER Resource Hub will bring together rural school districts and Michigan educator preparation institutions with experience in supporting rural educator workforce needs. The consortium will provide programs and supports for educators to complete licensing requirements through assessment of non-traditional and experiential learning that relies on a hands-on approach with real-world application.

As the lead institution of the MiCAREER Resource Hub and a gateway to Northern Michigan, CMU will further its long-standing commitment to serving Michigan’s rural communities and schools. CMU will expand its impact on the educator workforce through collaboration with Eastern Michigan University, Michigan State University, Northern Michigan University, Saginaw Valley State University, at least nine northern Michigan intermediate school districts, and more than 50 local school districts.

“The key to our success as a state depends upon our collaborative efforts to develop high-quality educators and retain them,” said Dr. Joseph Lubig, associate dean for teacher education at Northern Michigan University. “The MiCAREER Hub leverages the strong relationships all of us from preschool through graduate school have developed and sustained to improve teaching and learning in rural communities. The rural education community knows so much about what works and what our rural schools need. The MiCAREER Hub, led by CMU, will bring the rural education community together to access new and existing talent to support our children and young adults in accessing passionate and caring adults who are committed to bettering rural communities in Michigan.”