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Implementing Common Core in Rural Communities

Effectively implementing the new Common Core State Standards will mean rural schools must find ways to talk about this work with a variety of stakeholders.

That's one of the takeaways from a recent gathering to discuss the implementation and what it meant for rural schools.

The Rural Education Network hosted the day-long meeting in Nashville on June 14 and more than 70 educators from Kentucky, Ohio, and schools and districts throughout Tennessee participated in that discussion.

The Rural Education Network is an initiative that grew out of a rural education summit hosted last year by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, and this was the SCORE group's first in-person meeting.

Experts talked about promising practices, and participants worked in breakout sessions to brainstorm ideas and share suggestions that worked in their communities.

A three-minute video with highlights from the day has been posted online. It included snippets of the day's conversations, such as how teaching would look different and what challenges rural communities face.

In answer to the latter, Pat Ashley, the director of District and School Transformation for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, said in the video that rural residents often want their students to receive a good education—but not such a good one that it leads them to leave the area. Much work needs to happen with parents and communities about their values and attitudes on both an individual level, as well as what their views mean for the country as a whole for educating its workforce, she said.

"Those are the simple but complex conversations that have to happen," she said.

Laura Moore, who directs SCORE's work to identify and spread innovative practices in education reform, also wrote a blog post on the gathering.

"It became clear that there is a set of key messages that must be communicated in order for all aspects of implementation to be successful," she wrote.

Some of the messages she heard repeated throughout the day weren't rural-specific. Among them:
• "Adopting the Common Core is not a binder replacement. It is a transformation, not only in what students learn but also in how we deliver instruction."
• "Students will need to become patient problem-solvers as they learn to go deeper in content areas. They will have to become comfortable with struggling with new material and persevering to find solutions."
• "Principals will need to be instructional leaders—as opposed to building-managers or disciplinarians."

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