Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rural school group says Obama plan for federal education policy is too urban-focused

The Obama Administration's announced revisions to the No Child Left Behind Act do little to fix the problems rural schools faced under the current law, says a rural school advocacy group. Earlier this month the administration released "A Blueprint for Reform," announcing the kinds of changes it will seek in the re-authorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, last amended by No Child Left Behind. While the document includes more language about rural schools than most similar government education treatises, "There is almost nothing in Blueprint that addresses the real needs of high-poverty rural schools, and the programs outlined are clearly designed for high poverty urban schools where circumstances and resources are very different from those found in most rural areas," The Rural School and Community Trust says.

The plan shifts focus in determining school competency from state test scores to college and career readiness, and pushes states to participate in regional or national collaboratives to develop common standards and assessments. "Beginning in 2015, only states that implement standards common to 'a significant number of states' will be eligible for formula grants related to assessments," RSCT says. The group voices particular concern over the plan's emphasis on test scores in teacher evaluation, saying those tests are biased against poorer children and the requirement will push the best teacher to higher-income schools. (Read more)

RSCT also examines each reference to rural schools in the plan and concludes, "Mention of rural schools in Blueprint could give the illusion that something is actually being done for rural schools. But the requirements proposed in Blueprint are designed for urban situations and simply helping rural districts access these programs will not offer much that will make a difference for rural poor children and youth."

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