Friday, April 09, 2010

Rural-education researcher says Obama planners don't understand rural schools

The Obama administration's plan to reform the No Child Left Behind Act uses the word "rural" 18 times,  but that doesn't mean the Blueprint for Reform addresses those concerns, writes one rural-education researcher. Among the proposal's rural initiatives are plans to "maintain and strengthen" grant programs for rural districts, update the way it classifies districts as rural (the current rural formula grant programs exclude larger rural districts, such as those in the Southeast and Appalachia), and fund technical assistance to rural districts as they apply for competitive funding. "But these priorities aren’t all that rural," Caitlin Howley, a senior manager for education and research in the Appalachian Regional Office of ICF International, writes for the Daily Yonder.

Howley agrees with the The Rural School and Community Trust's position, reported here, that the only truly rural initiative in the Blueprint is more time for rural teachers to become "highly qualified." The other rural-related provisions are "of ambiguous benefit to rural places," Howley writes. She points to lack of resources to apply for competitive funding and ill-fitting school turnaround plans as particularly worrisome in rural school districts.

The Blueprint also ignores repeated complaints from rural educators that the number-weighting system used to determining Title I funding disadvantages their districts, Howley writes. Education Department officials recently told rural educators they would be interested in fixing that problem. More input from rural educators is what the Blueprint needs to be successful in rural areas, Howley concludes. "We can say that although there's more 'rural' in the law than ever before, it could be more meaningfully rural," she writes. "To get the rural part of the new legislation right, we’ll need the insights of people who are from and of rural places." (Read more)

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