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A Model for Recruiting and Retaining Teachers in Alaska’s Rural K-12 Schools

Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 90, No. 2

Barbara L. Adams, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Ashley Woods, University of Alaska Fairbanks and University of Alaska Anchorage


The Alaska Statewide Mentor Project (ASMP) is a joint effort of the University of Alaska and the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development to address the persistently low teacher retention rates in the state, especially in rural districts that predominantly serve Alaska Native (AN) students. Over six years, teacher retention in rural districts, measured from year to year, has increased from an average of 67% to an average of 77% among new teachers who receive ASMP mentoring (Adams & Jordan, 2012). We conducted a midcareer teacher study to determine whether ASMP also affects long-term retention and, if so, to identify contributing factors. Using an explanatory sequential mixed-methods approach, we first calculated longitudinal retention rates and then interviewed midcareer teachers to identify factors supporting teacher efficacy connected to teacher retention. Interview data were coded using a framework from community psychology that employs a strengths-based perspective grounded, in this case, by the orienting concepts of “stress” and “coping.” The data produced a model of strengths contributing to teacher efficacy related to typical stressors in Alaska's public K–12 schools, a model that includes factors specific to teacher background, professionalism, socializing in the community, and being student-focused. In this paper, we compare and contrast these results to findings by others in northern rural remote areas in order to present practical implications for teacher recruitment, professional development, mentoring and support, and school environment.


Barbara L. Adams is engaged in research on teacher retention under a National Science Foundation–funded grant through the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Education. She previously served as the research lead for the Alaska Statewide Mentor Project where she conducted research to measure the project's impact on teacher retention and student achievement. Adams earned a Ph.D. in Fisheries Acoustics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Ashley Woods is a doctoral candidate in the University of Alaska Fairbanks–University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) joint Ph.D. Program in Clinical–Community Psychology, a scientist-practitioner program that seeks to educate scholars and clinicians who have strong commitments to research, evaluation, clinical practice, and community-based action solidly grounded in the cultural contexts of all affected stakeholders. Her studies focus on supporting rural indigenous people and communities.