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Rural Schools Struggle With SIG Transformation Model, Report Says

Rural schools participating in the federal School Improvement Grant program face challenges in fully implementing the transformation model due to the issues facing remote communities, according to a new study.

The Regional Educational Laboratory Northwest study surveyed 201 principals in rural schools nationwide, all of whom adopted the transformation model under the SIG program, which requires schools, for example, to ensure high-quality staff are employed at the school and provide more professional development. Out of the 135 schools that responded, only 5 percent had fully implemented all of the 12 transformation strategies surveyed, and 32 percent had partially implemented the strategies.

The principals who responded described many challenges that prevented full implementation, including a lack of funding and technology and insufficient staff expertise. These issues can be more dramatic in rural areas where it's particularly hard to recruit and retain teachers and where internet services can be costly. The hardest strategy to implement, according to nearly half of the principals, was one that called for rewards for staff members who most improved student outcomes. Principals also reported difficulty in engaging family and community members in rural areas.

Despite the challenges, the study's authors found that when rural schools received technical assistance they were more successful in rolling out additional aspects of the transformation model. The authors suggested that state leaders offer more support to rural schools that are trying to implement the transformation model and that rural schools utilize resources and assistance from other districts and universities.

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