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Rural Schools Issues, Challenges Main Topics at National Conference

Collaboration and partnerships are two sometimes overlooked strategies rural schools can use to improve services and raise student achievement.

That was one of the issues discussed during a recent gathering of about 150 rural policymakers, educators, and researchers hosted by the National Center for Research on Rural Education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Their goal was to immerse those rural leaders in discussion of the research to inform them about the impacts of teaching, family engagement, community involvement, school environment, and contextual factors on rural student performance.

The national conference was one of two events in the state that prompted Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman to designate the first week of April as "Rural Education Week".

Organizers wanted attendees to understand that "promoting the academic success of rural students will require the concerted and collaborative efforts of researchers, practitioners and policymakers from across the country," according to Scott Schrage, spokesman for the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and School. Their ability to foster meaningful dialogue among those three sectors will directly influence the quality of education and opportunity rural students receive, he said.

Several speakers emphasized the importance of the sustainability of programs, translating research into practice, ongoing professional development, and engaging policymakers in rural issues.

An oft-overlooked approach to addressing some of these issues, he said, is establishing meaningful partnerships between families and schools.

Conference presentations and keynote addresses will be posted on the group's website in coming weeks.

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