September 2010 Archives

The U.S. Department of Education's top rural education official said strong school leadership is more critical to improving low-performing, high-need schools than providing schools additional federal turnaround models to try. John White, deputy secretary for rural outreach, told the Rural Education blog that the Obama administration supports the concept of full-service community schools, a turnaround approach recommended in a new rural education report. He said the fiscal year 2011 budget will request $1.2 billion for the 21st Century Learning Centers program, which incorporates community schools. Yet White did not endorse adding the community schools model to the four ...


Falling enrollments and shrinking state funds nudged voters in a dozen school districts in western and northern Iowa to OK a round of mergers beginning next year.


A rural education policy expert and advocate says the current federal reform models are failing high-needs rural schools and urges lawmakers and education officials to implement and provide incentives for a new "community schools" turnaround option. That model has worked well in high-poverty, low-performing urban settings and shows promise for rural districts said Doris Terry Williams, executive director of the Rural School and Community Trust, in a new report on reinvigorating rural schools. "The current restructuring strategy for underperforming Title I schools requires the district to replace teachers and school leaders," she writes. "This strategy is often not feasible for ...


Three of 21 Promise Neighborhood Grants for 2010 rolled out this week by the U.S. Department of Education target primarily rural communities and will be used to plan development of cradle-to-career services in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Wyoming that strengthen learning and children's health. Those three grants total $1.3 million, compared with $7.7 million that will go to grantees in metropolitan areas and small cities. The 21 Promise Neighborhoods grantees are located in 19 cities and 12 states, and the District of Columbia. Three grantees are institutions of higher education, and the other 18 are nonprofit organizations. Two ...


Advocates for a small, rural school district in Arkansas say a judge's request for more time to consider their lawsuit blocking state-enforced consolidation is not a defeat, just a delay. Yet the denial last week of a request to block the Weiner School District's consolidation with Harrisburg suggests the unusual legal argument being made by Weiner advocates may be a stretch. The Associated Press and news sources in Arkansas reported last week that U.S. District Judge James Moody turned down an injunction, but stated he needed more time to decide whether to throw out the lawsuit entirely. The group ...


The new director of the Native Achievement Initiative for Teach for America says the education of Native American students would benefit from public policies that help recruit talent and provide access to data in order to better tailor student learning. "While we don't take official stances on policy matters ... we [Teach for America] see tremendous value in our country investing in the recruitment of more outstanding teachers into high-need classrooms," said Robert Cook, a former teacher and principal who started in his new role in August. The Rural Education blog talked with Cook, of South Dakota, about his first few ...


A journal published by a non-profit civil rights organization has found that concentrated poverty imposes a significant burden on many of the nation's rural schools, which face many of the same challenges as their urban counterparts. The Fall 2010 issue of Teaching Tolerance magazine, published twice a year by the Southern Poverty Law Center, reports that many rural school districts struggle with violence, homelessness, substance abuse, and academic failure at record levels, yet often those problems remain invisible. The series of articles also points out the diversity in race, ethnicity and degree of ruralness in what it calls "country" schools, ...


The Formula Fairness blog keeps digging up horror stories to back up its contention that the way federal Title I funds are distributed puts small, poor school districts at a big disadvantage. This post by Marty Strange, of the Rural School and Community Trust, is the latest. It contrasts funding for Texas' 28th Congressional District with funding for Maryland's Prince George's County School District. A summary: Thanks to number weighting, and the fact the Title I formula bases funding in part on the average per-pupil spending in all schools in a state, the Texas schools get only two-thirds as much ...


Most of the time when you read about tiny, rural schools, it's in the context of negatives: too few resources, low student performance, and so on. Yet that's just not true of Glenn Public School in Michigan, profiled in this recent Grand Rapids Press report. The story is a great read, not only because it paints a nice, "Little House on the Prairie" picture but also because the facts about Glenn are just plain interesting —and rare. Glenn, with fewer than 50 students and a one-mile-square district, is flush with cash. It's the state's oldest continuously operating rural school and,...


Rural school districts in Alaska have joined others across the country opting to take legal action against parents, including sending them to jail, when kids are chronically absent from school. The Alaska Dispatch reports that school districts there are taking a harder line against parents of truants in an effort to boost low-performing rural schools where they believe absenteeism is a factor. One example: the Inupiat Eskimo village of Kivalina, population 388, where the Dispatch reports getting kids to class is a top priority this year for the Northwest Arctic Borough School District. Students in one school, McQueen, have failed ...


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