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Rural Teachers Lean on Internet for Mentors, Professional Development

Rural teachers sometimes are isolated from others who teach their same subject, and that can become a particular challenge for inexperienced teachers needing extra help.

Some rural districts have found a solution in online mentoring, and my EdWeek colleague and teacher expert Stephen Sawchuk did a nice piece on this issue.

He profiled a California-based program, E-Mentoring for Student Success, that matches new teachers with veterans in their field. More than 1,500 teachers nationwide are using the service, and it's been particularly beneficial for some rural districts that lack the in-person staff to help new teachers. Kansas, which requires mentoring for new teachers, is one example of a state where the program has been successful.

Rural schools across the country are finding ways to use the internet to the benefit of their students. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has talked about how technology gives rural schools access and equity, and that's one reason the Obama administration has supported the expansion of broadband.

It's worth noting that some rural areas might not be able to take advantage of the online mentoring service profiled in the story because they lack adequate high-speed internet infrastructure.

Sawchuk points out that the research tying online professional development to better test scores is "relatively thin" but he wrote some studies show remote coaching can have benefits for students.

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