Monday, September 21, 2009

Rural educators wary of school stimulus options

The U.S. Department of Education is preparing to spend $3 billion from the stimulus plan to improve perennial underperforming schools through the Title I School Improvement Fund, but some rural school districts fear that new regulations may be tough to implement due to the lack of access to organizations and individuals with expertise in turning around floundering schools, Alyson Klein of Education Week reports.

The investment ranks as the largest infusion of government funding to improve schools that don't meet the achievement targets of the No Child Left Behind Act. Models call for underperforming schools to be closed and reopened as charter schools, for a school to replace its principal and half its staff, or to use student-progress data to reward and dismiss teachers. Rural educators fear these regulations are not practical for small, isolated schools and districts.

When Gail Taylor, director of standards and assessments for the Vermont education department, launched a nationwide search for a school-improvement specialist, she had trouble finding qualified applicants. She told Klein: “It wasn’t like we had a lot of people jumping to come to the northeast corner of Vermont.” Federal education officials say the different options offer enough flexibility for rural districts and schools. (Read more)

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