Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rural senators question federal school reform plan

Is a rural revolt brewing against the Department of Education's school-reform plan? "Senate Republicans raised questions Wednesday about whether President Obama's plan to turn around struggling schools would fly in rural America. One Democrat [Patty Murray of Washington] said she worried that many states would be shortchanged of federal funding they need to improve teaching," Nick Anderson reports for The Washington Post.

"An Oklahoma senator complained that federal rules on teacher credentials had driven thousands of experienced educators out of rural schools. A North Carolina lawmaker complained that formulas for distributing federal education money favored big-city districts at the expense of poor students in small towns," Sam Dillon writes for The New York Times. "Lawmakers who represent rural areas told Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a hearing Wednesday that the No Child Left Behind law, as well as the Obama administration’s blueprint for overhauling it, failed to take sufficiently into account the problems of rural schools, and their nine million students."

John Hill, executive director of the National Rural Education Association, based at Purdue University, told the Senate Education Committee, “There are lots of bright people at the Department of Education, and they work very hard. But because most have not grown up or worked in a rural area, they find it difficult to see how things work in remote districts.” (Read more)

One Republican senator from a state with many rural schools, former Education Secretary Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, called the proposal "a good beginning for a complex area." But Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., questioned the idea of "replacing at least half the teachers in a struggling school, or converting it to a charter school," Anderson writes. Enzi said those options "seem to be urban-centered [and] may not work in many areas of Wyoming." Duncan "replied that the plan would allow rural schools to be transformed in ways that would work in sparsely populated regions," Anderson reports.

"Duncan told Sen. Enzi that low-performing rural schools could try the so-called “transformation model,” which is widely considered the least drastic of the four options," Alyson Klein reports for Education Week. It requires schools to offer extended learning time, institute alternative pay plans, and try out new instructional programs, among other remedies." (Read more)

1 comment:

Steve Wyckoff said...

Al, I'm not sure that the federal government not considering rural schools is the good news or the bad news. NCLB has created higher test scores and less well-educated kids. Perhaps rural schools can avoid the effort to make their kids the best test takers in the world, and instead focus on changing schools so that their kids are prepared for the 21st century. Those two tasks are completely different.