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Feds Highlight Rural Education In August

The U.S. Department of Education unveiled a new Web page Monday dedicated to rural education, and federal officials plan to shine their spotlight on rural schools throughout August.

The new Web page will highlight the work of teachers and students in rural areas, and the department promises to hold events this month to promote the strengths, opportunities and challenges in rural education, according to a news release. More information on upcoming events will be released in coming weeks.

The new Web page doesn't look like it has content that isn't already available elsewhere on the department or White House's Web sites, but it is easier to find information because it's all in one place.

It reminds me of what the National Center for Education Statistics did in 2007 by creating a report on the Status of Rural Education and subsequent rural education Web page. The center had a history of doing such reports on urban schools, and this was a way to call attention to rural ones.

Federal leaders have been criticized by rural education advocates who say they're out of touch, and this isn't the first time this administration has ratcheted up its focus on rural education.

A couple of years ago, the department designated a deputy secretary for rural outreach to serve as a liaison to rural schools. Last month, it announced rural schools would be one of the priority areas for the next round of its Investing in Innovation grant competition. The White House also created in June a Rural Council to strengthen rural communities.

"Rural schools are critically important to our nation's future prosperity," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a statement. "Our nation needs the skills and talents of rural children and adults. More rural students need to access college and career training beyond high school to meet the needs of their local economies."

Rural students make up a sizable portion of the nation's students. Roughly 56 percent of public school districts, 31 percent of public schools and 23 percent of public school students are considered rural, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

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