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White: ESEA Wording Change Will Help Rural Schools

The Education Department's point person for rural schools told teachers at a small, rural Arkansas high school Thursday that the administration will push to make federal education law more flexible for small, rural schools, particularly those where teachers have multiple roles.

One example: The Education Department is seeking a change in key wording in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act from requiring "highly qualified" teachers to requiring "highly effective" teachers, John White, deputy secretary for rural outreach, told the Rural Education blog.

"That way, when you've got a science teacher in a rural school who also teaches math and another subject as well, and does so effectively, and at a high level of mastery, he or she can continue doing those duties without the school being penalized," White said.

The No Child Left Behind Act places particular emphasis on the need for states and districts to ensure that teachers of core academic subjects meet certain minimum requirements to become effective educators.

The criteria to be considered "highly qualified" are that teachers hold at least a bachelor's degree, be fully licensed by the state, and demonstrate content knowledge in each subject they teach. All core academic teachers must meet those requirements.

White spent time with three senior agriculture teachers at Hamburg High School to go over such tweaks as well as to get their ideas on how to get more people to become agriculture educators.

He stayed behind after a stop there by Education Secretary Arne Duncan's Get on the Bus Tour and told the Rural Education blog he was particularly impressed with how the high school had tailored its curriculum for local needs.

"For example, Hamburg has a forestry program, and obviously Arkansas is a big forestry area," he said. "That focus on community is a real strength of rural schools."

Read this earlier post about Thursday's rural stops and this second post about his visit to a pre-K learning center.

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