Valley City State University Launches the New Rural School Partner Benefit Program

A North Dakota collaboration addresses the Rural Teacher Shortage.

February 4, 2020 |

Front row (L to R) – Mrs. Tricia Schmit, Dual Credit English Instructor, Mrs. Barb Sweet, Dual Credit Biology, Mrs. Kortney Groettum-Vessel, Dual Credit Math, and Dr. Steven L. Johnson, Superintendent. Back row (L to R) – Mr. Pat Adair, Principal & Dual Credit Instructor Intro to Education, Dr. Alan LaFave, President of VCSU, Dr. James Boe, VCSU Dean of Graduate Studies & Extended Learning, Mr. Mark Moss, Dual Credit Instructor U.S. History/Political Science

Across the nation colleges and universities are grappling with the issue of how to best support and strengthen rural school communities. Valley City State University, located in the small town of Valley City, North Dakota, population of 6,447, has developed an innovative program that builds connections between the college and small rural schools in ways that are tailored to a respective community. T​he Rural School Partner Benefit Program​ is designed to create a “dynamic and sustained university-school district partnership that will promote collaboration between the University and partner schools with a focus on student learning and educator preparation.” This effort will include both school district and university faculty and teacher candidates.

One of the very first formalized partnerships is between V​alley City State University​ and the Lisbon Public Schools.​ ​Dr. Steven Johnson,​ Lisbon Superintendent of Schools and RSC Advocate, shared the details of the partnership. “The focus will be on offering our students more dual-credit opportunities and preparing future teachers while updating current LPS staff with graduate credit." Johnson added, “We will collaborate to place VCSU graduates in our school while helping them supervise and assess preservice teachers in clinical experiences.”

VCSU will also offer reduced rates for tuition for those Lisbon faculty seeking Master of Education, Master of Arts in Teaching or Content Area Qualifications. In addition, VCSU will reduce the tuition for our high school students taking dual credit coursework.

“We are currently working on expanding our dual-credit offerings on our campus with VCSU,” Johnson noted, “and we are very excited about this partnership of collaboration between the Lisbon Public Schools and Valley City State University.”

Dr. James Boe, Dean of Graduate Studies and Extended Learning/ Professor, and his colleagues have been exploring the feasibility of a rural-centric program since 2018, and the formalization of the Rural School Partnership Benefit Program came to fruition in 2019. This was done through a pilot program to add Introduction to the Teaching Profession as a dual-credit course at Lisbon High School. The course was designed to provide students with an opportunity to explore the

L to R – Dr. James Boe, VCSU Dean of Graduate Studies & Extended Learning, Mr. Pat Adair, Secondary Principal & Dual Credit Instructor for Intro to Education, and Sam Rieger, LHS Senior Student, currently taking dual credit Intro to Education through VCSU and signed a letter of intent to play football at VCSU and major in Secondary Science Education.

teaching profession and work in classrooms as part of their field experience. The success of this pilot has positioned VCSU to launch this course in other partner schools. These kinds of intentional higher education efforts have also been a primary conversational focus of RSC North Dakota Hub partner, the North Dakota Small Organized Schools.​

Boe pointed out that the partnership was mutually beneficial. “The creation of the rural school placement program will assist not only the public school district, but it also aids VSCU graduates.” He added, “The benefit of a partnership like this for the school district directly and positively corresponds to closing of the teacher-shortage gap in rural school districts. Not only will the demand for teachers continue to increase, but the readiness factor for teaching rural is one that is unique. In turn, there will be a rural school placement program for VSCU.”

Are you a school district looking to connect with a nearby institution or vice versa?

Let us know how we can help facilitate initial conversations of collaboration and partnership. We believe that the creation of networks across rural communities is a key to future regional vitality.

We also invite to learn more about our other rural teacher corps partners across the nation on our ​website.​

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