Secretary Arne Duncan Takes Listening Tour to Vermont, Invites Comments on Rural Education

Secretary Duncan talks with teachers at Westford Elementary School in Westford, Vt., as part of his listening tour on education reform.

Secretary Duncan talks with teachers at Westford Elementary School in Westford, Vt., as part of his listening tour on education reform.

Secretary Arne Duncan went to Vermont last week to give the commencement address at St. Michael’s College and continue his listening tour. (See photos.)

He visited Barnes Elementary School in Burlington with Senator Patrick Leahy, Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss, and Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca. He learned about the school’s partnership with local farmers to provide healthy, locally grown lunches, and he listened to teachers, parents, and students talk about challenges they face.

He stopped at Muddy Waters cafe in Burlington to talk with teachers about education reform and then Westford Elementary School, where he met with teachers and families to hear their ideas and how the federal government can help provide incentives for good teachers to work in schools where they’re most needed.

He heard from the people of Vermont about some of the challenges of teaching and learning in rural America. He invites your ideas:

What are the particular challenges of improving schools in rural America?

ED Staff

33 Comments

  1. I think the biggest challenge that rural students face is a disconnect to the outside world. Rural communities can be severely isolated from other parts of the nation, and studetns many times miss out on educational, social, and career opportunities that exist outside their own communities.

    I would really like to see education evolve in a way that connects students directly to those opportunities. For example, schools could offer internships for students in career fields to go along with their in class education. Thus, a student who wants to be a surgeon, truck driver, car salesman, etc. could get practical training in that field. This may spur more students to have an interst in their class work, as they see that some of the skills learned in the class are directly related to careers.

    This will also allow us to face and address the fact that not all students will attend a traditional four year university. In fact, there are many technical and skill based programs that offer students wonderful opportunities in many career fields.

  2. I love Sec. Duncan for both his charm and substance. i believe he will lead us into a new world of innovation.

  3. As someone who attended a rural K-12 school district and has friends who currently teach in rural schools, I get frustrated on a variety of fronts on how rural kids get left behind. Technology can be employed to bring so many services, such as advanced placement classes, to students in rural remote areas. Some districts do this very well. Sadly, many do not. My friend who is an English teacher says, “We cannot offer AP classes because we cannot afford to hire AP teachers.” What about learning opportunities? That’s the perfect example of the failure of the local school board, the administrators and the community to rally around the technology and the right delivery systems today’s rural school needs to bring their students the services they need.

    Technology cannot solve all problems but it can work wonders in breaking down access to opportunities for rural children — opportunities for which their suburban counterparts take for granted. We love to throw around words such as “skills for a global workforce and society” but we never seem willing as a country, as states, and as local communities to really give students the teaching and learning supports they need to not only survive, but thrive, in today’s society and marketplace.

    I graduated from an under-resourced rural school more than 25 years ago and I often still feel as if I am trying to catch up. Yet so often I hear older rural residents say, “The 3Rs worked just fine for me.”

    I just really hope that Sec. Duncan looks for the appropriate role the federal government can play in targeting specific resources to rural schools.

  4. My school serves children who face many challenges. More than 99% qualify for free or reduced lunch. Read that again. About 85% come from homes where English is not the native language. I’m disappointed that ELLs were not explicitly considered in the ARRA funding. How will SEAs be encouraged to use the funding for ELLs?

    We have lost a month of instruction to state standardized tests. Our ELLs were tested in February with ACCESS testing for social language, the language of social studies, the language of math, the language of language arts, and the language of science. We could have used these many weeks in much more constructive ways, than testing that tells us what we already know. We have an achievement gap. We have students below grade level. How can we address this when we chip away at the school calendar? Our legislature proposed cutting the school year by five days next year, and an additional five days the following year. It’s bad enough that we don’t have funding for summer school to prevent the “summer slide”, but our children cannot afford to have more time taken away!

    Didn’t I read that you want more days of instruction? SEAs who agree to ARRA funds should have to comply with rules about going against common sense and best practices. Perhaps there are such stipulations. Between prepping for End-of-Grade testing, administering EOGs for a week, remediating students who did not pass, and retesting this week…I haven’t had the free time to research it.

    I would love for you to come visit our school. Despite our challenges, we have incredible spirit and our teachers are eager to learn how to meet the needs of our ELLs and other at-risk students living in our small town where jobs in poultry plants have dried up.

  5. I believe the challenges should be addressed, and I agree with Richard Pohlman’s comments that the issues in one rural district are probably very different from those in another. There are often different challenges between buildings in the same district. Regional service centers would provide a structure. Money, oversight, and teacher education would help create long-term reform.
    In my building our students need to learn about technology including more access to computers, the Internet, blogging, podcasting, etc. They need to have more real world experiences which would include field trips to colleges and universities as well as museums and urban areas. We need money for this, and, because our population is small with very little local industry, it is difficult to raise it through community donations and fund-raisers. We need to have time for our students to learn about the opportunities that are available and to have some time for deeper exploration of these options. Designated funds for extended day, field trips, sister-schools, and other enrichment opportunities would go a long way toward bridging the gap between economically disadvantaged rural schools where a majority of parents have only a high school diploma, and the more advantaged suburban schools where a majority of parents and grandparents have received a college education.
    I read with interest the ideas for student’s to be involved in a variety of community endeavors including climate mapping and creating a local newspaper, and I wonder how people made those things happen. I don’t know anything about climate mapping or running a newspaper. How would I learn and where would I get the money to make these things happen? Where would I find the time to take my students for a field trip to the local stream (or what we call a “crick”)? What would I look for and what would I do with the information once I’d found it?
    I’m on a mailing list for grant funds and I have applied for a few grants. I haven’t been successful yet. I know I should probably take a course in how to write grants, but between being on the school improvement committee, curriculum committee, garden committee, district school improvement committee, working with extended day kids, PBS committee, and tutoring special needs students after school, as well as taking summer courses to improve my skills, learning about the requirements for comprehensive needs assessment reports, Ed Yes reports, and other mandated reports, I also need to take a course in time-management. So, even if I were to find some money, how much more time could I squeeze out of my already over-extended day? I’ve heard the work smarter, not harder mantra, and I’ve incorporated many of the strategies I’ve learned at various conferences. What I’ve found is that as our faculty has grown smaller, even working smarter becomes harder.
    I love my job. Every day I am grateful to come to work. I work with the best people in the world and I get to teach the greatest kids ever. My main frustration comes from not being able to do enough. If I were in charge of education (and I’m pretending that’s what you are asking me to do with this post), I’d ensure small class sizes K-4 with no more than 16 students in a class. I’d provide funds for get on the bus field trips and virtual field trips. I’d arrange sister city exchanges between rural, urban, and suburban kids. I’d make shorter bus rides, longer school days, longer school years, and only hire teachers who were dedicated to their students and their school. I’d provide easier methods for getting funds for innovative projects. I’d provide grant writers for teachers who didn’t know the ropes. I’d look for schools who hadn’t yet figured out how to garner support from local agencies and help them find creative partners to fund their educational needs. I’d give more than lip service to the fact that we don’t even know what kind of skills our kids will need to meet the demands of the next generation and teach them how to be creative problem solvers. And, I’d make sure that every student had one person they could count on to be there for them everyday of the educational life.

  6. Secretary Duncan;

    In considering how to best serve rural districts I believe it is important to recognize the many different “rural” scenarios. While a school district in either Maine or California may be considered rural, they do not face the same issues as each other, nor do they face the same issues of rural districts in Wyoming and Texas. Because issues can often vary from state to state or region to region, the Department should consider establishing regional service centers for rural districts. This would enable the Department to focus on regional issues and provide services on an as-needed basis. This type of structure could also provide a regional network for rural educators and administrators; it could also serve as a platform to deliver technical assistance and training.

  7. For rural schools as with urban ones, motivation for learning is a deficiency that results from dysfunctional families widespread in our society. Comment 13 stated that ‘Parents also need to be held accountable for teaching their children respect and the desire to learn,… Parenting is the most important activity subordinating any effort toward vocational and academics.
    Secy. Duncan made no mention in his May 20 testimony to the House of Repr. about a need to orient the parents of tomorrow (students of today), with the qualities to be a good parent and able to begin a family relationship conducive to learning for their child.
    A three level parent of the next generation course for the 7th and 12th grades of every school and post school higher ed.would supply the rudiments needed for character of our future families. My Child: For a Better World is a title for a proposed universal, uniform, mandated effort to accomplish this in a simplistic way with objectivity that could be seen to make a difference before the kids are in any school program. The parents come before the school gets the child. Wouldn’t this be the place to start forming the child for an education?

  8. As the mother of two children that had speech delays, I am greatful that there was pre-k for my children to receive the services that they needed. The district in which we reside has an excellent pre-k program for all who wish to participate no matter how much money you make and it is full day!

  9. I would like a DVD from President Obama welcoming our children back to school. I would like him to talk about persistence. I would like him to talk about the job of our children is to work hard and release the stress from our parents lives by doing well in school. We have a lot of issues that need long term solutions and it is up to them to master the basic skills in order to reach their full potential. He needs to talk to children about being reports and the difference between telling on someone and reporting a concern or problem. They are their brothers keeper and if someone is being picked on or treated in a way that is not respectfull it is their responsibility as a citizen of this country to work in a positive way to remidee the problem. The video needs to be in my hands by mid august so I can preview it and plan a way to have our class respond.I would also like him to announce the unveiling of a national reading program. When children read 25 GRADE LEVEL books and report on them they would receive a pencil with the presidential seal from the White House. For each 100 they
    receive a personally signed Certificate from the president and if they get to 500 or 1000 they get put in the congressional record and get a copy. For the top 5 readers in the country by Dec. the president will personally (or you or Ms. Obama) comes to the school to present the trophy. At the end of the year who ever reads the most gets an all expense paid trip for themselves and an adult to a week in washington dc. with their teacher. You could also come up with an oprah style book of the month club. Recommending books for 6-9 year olds, 9-12 year olds and upper grade students. Children could also recommend books to each other. I had a third grader who told me James and the Giant Peach was the best book ever written after he read 1000 books in 4 months. Thank you for this opportunity
    Sara Miele
    Minneapolis Public School
    Primary teacher

  10. I am a preschool teacher and have been for nearly 20 years. It has been wonderful to hear the hope beign expressed regarding preschool and early childhood education. Research shows the brain does most of it’s developing during the first 5 years, so early childhood education, it seems, should be a priority. Yet many schools and school districts don’t (won’t) support high quality programs. If there were federal guidleines regarding early childhood education, relating specifically to what high quality should look like, it might go a long way to helping our youngest get a better start on their educational path. Too many preschools are understaffed and barely meet a state’s minimal guidelines. It is quite scary. Preschool teachers should be required to have a bachelor’s degree just as elementary teachers. We do the same work they do, sometimes even more! Thanks for listening to my two cents!

  11. The particular challenges that I see with my students that I work with is the fact that not all schools are on the same page when it comes to teachers, funding, and accessibility.
    Regarding teachers, I have students in schools with enrollments of 2500 students in high school and then I have students in schools with enrollments of 100 or less students in the high school. Therefore, the students with bigger schools have more opportunity to learn from teachers that teach just one or two main subjects (i.e. algebra & geometry). While my students that live in small rural towns have a teacher (certified) that teaches math, science, and maybe even an elective and they probably also coach a sport for the high school. That teacher is often teaching all of the different selections because it is hard to get a teacher that wants to work with these kids in a small, rural area because its hard for the teachers to find reasonable housing, daycare for their own children, high enough salary, and the list can go on and on. Therefore a student has to suffer because the school can’t offer all of the classes that a larger, more urban school can offer.

    This leads into funding. Rural schools do not have the personnel or money to fund people such as grant writers and additional personnel to find extra money to offer computers or services that could make their school better for their learning opportunities. The bigger schools are often benefitted by the higher taxes and also business donations. Thus, it allows a student to get a service or access to a program a lot easier than a rural student can.

    Finally, accessibility is a final aspect that I think hinders many students in a rural school setting. The internet has opened many doors for smaller rural communities but when there is only 20 computers for a school of 200 students to use in a day, somebody is going to miss out. I work with one school that still uses a dot matrix printer to print report cards and other things out on. This is because they don’t have the funds to buy a bigger, better printer plus there is also some narrow minded staff that feel that this is all they need to use. (But that is another story for another day.) Also these students often live in a place where that just getting to school is all that they can get. They do not have the opportunities to get out and see things like colleges, cultural events, and other places due to their locale.

    I am a product of a rural high school and quite honestly, it was tough to come from a class of 55 to a small, public university of 7,000 students. There many things that students do not learn about if they come from a small town until they hit the “big city.” Luckily technology has opened some of those doors but if they have not learned from a qualified teacher or have had the funds or accessibility to get there then you often see those students fall by the wayside or fail and never attempt higher education again.

    I applaud Mr. Duncan for listening and I hope to see more schools in the rural areas get more assistance in helping their students.

  12. Since USDOE has not required states to insist that graduate schools of education thoroughly train general education teachers-to-be in even one research-validated program of initial reading instruction, nor thoroughly train special ed. teachers-to-be in even one research-validated program of reading remediation, why would one expect that their graduates in rural schools do any better than their graduates in urban, poor, minority schools and districts? In 2 decades of looking, so far I’ve found exactly one grad. school of education does this – in MA, of course. In fact, numerous studies have shown that grad. schools of education don’t train folks taking courses necessary to become principals and superintendents in doing, understanding or putting genuinely validated research into practice.

    The fish rots from the head. Stop giving SEAs so much leeway that they can use federal funds on programs which nobody can show are effective for anything. Then worry about the distribution of teaching graduates who’ve learned something effective.

  13. As reforms for education are considered, I hope the value of maintaining and supporting small, community schools is fully realized. Closing these schools through consolidation efforts is not the way to improve the education of our students. Consolidation may save money in the short term; however, the costs of wasteing students’ time on long bus trips, the loss of more community and family involvement in the education process, and the reduction of leadership and participation opportunities for students are much greater and will have a far more negative impact. With today’s technology, there are many ways to provide additional educational experiences for students and to share the cost with neighboring schools without the drastic move of closing a school and busing students long distances.

  14. As a previous teacher in a New Mexico rural school and an Indian BIA rural school I found the greatest rural education challenge to be leadership accountability. Many times, leaders are those who have not been successful away from the rural communities (they rise by attrition) and can be very protective of their positions – competence and reform are threatening.

    What is the solution? ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARANCY – demand it at the state and district level – make it specific, without fine print, and accessable to the public … and as one rural superintendent (who was shoved out of his positon) told me during my first year of teaching – while I was leading a reform effort – “never stop!”

  15. I am an educator, both in early childhood, school age and college instruction. The biggest threat to education for all children is NCLB- the emphasis on high stakes testing as the only form of assessment, the scripted narrow curriculum that accompanies high stake testing, the construction of schooling and curriculum that does not take into account children’s development and cultural diversity, the exclusion of teachers and students from the conversation. Our children’s educational future is seriously at risk due to this narrow educational script. Get rid of No Child Left Behind and the dependence of testing and scripts for educating our children. It will not and has not created the critical thinkers our society needs for the future. Bring real educators, teachers, students to the table to reconstruct the democratic system of schooling and education that all of our children need.

  16. I appreciate the interest in rural communities. Mr. Duncan has an impressive and extensive urban background. Balance is good. I currently work for a rural community college serving over 7,600 students per semester that has a service area that is roughly the size of the state of Maryland. Our student body is 78% first generation and 10% Hispanic. There are many challenges that describe the educational picture. We meet some challenges through partnership. However, we do not have many of the resources that “normal” in urban settings. It will be critical to not design programs around those expectations. We look forward to serving our students and communities. They our the future.

  17. I retired from teaching special ed students in rural schools. One of the greatest needs is for instructional resources, especially for the special needs kids. I had NO textbooks that were appropriate for the needs of my students. I only had access to the regular textbooks, and never to the teacher edition. I had to make my own materials. Further, I had no maps, a globe from hom that my own children outgrew, used computers that I begged for online on my own time, and not so much as an overhead projector.

    Since retiring, I’ve devoted my time to developing web resources for teacher like myself, who are not so provided by their school districts. I hope to begin creating online courses that can be used by children with special needs that cannot be met by the poorer rural districts.

    Oh, and another suggestion would be to make technological resources for special needs students available on a regional basis. If a school has but one visually impaired student every 20 years or so, keeping up with the needs is more than just expensive – it is impossible!

  18. I used to be a staff writer on education for the Rural School and Community Trust. During that time, I saw some of the best education I have ever encountered by schools that took advantage of their small size and ability to not only to use their communities as resources for learning but to contribute vital services to those communities– students did everything from run newspapers where none existed to mapping micro-climates, constructing houses (with habitat for Humanity), to conducting oral histories of their area, working with cultural mapping, setting up sustainable aquaculture farms, wiring a town for the internet, and conducting science experiments of direct use to the community. None of this would have been possible with rigid hierarchical structures, the pressures of standardized curricula, or school consolidation that bussed children far away from their home communities.

    My suggestion is that teachers in rural schools aim for greater multi-disciplinarity and that their ‘generalist” approach be enriched by sophisticated online programs and/or visiting experts as needed.
    Interdiscplinary teachers (as opposed to jacks of all trades and masters of none) can make links between the abstract and the practical and do great work with limited resources as long as the schools are small and the community is involved– contriuting their resources, talents, and skills.

    In saving these small revitalized schools, one saves their communities and can provide hope for renewed economic contributions in rural areas.

  19. Rural Community Academy is Indiana’s first and only public rural charter school sponsored by Ball State University. Our traditional school system decommissioned our small, rural school, and we defied consolidation by default as our school was consolidated with a failing school. Our community and parents came together and rather than sit around and watch another old school building deteriorate and fall down around itself, we pooled our thoughts on rural education and took action. The loss of a school to a small rural community often leads to the deterioration of the community itself; the school is the glue that holds the rural community together. One part of the community accepted the building as a community center and the other part created a charter. These two non-profit groups became partners and now our school is in the same building that once held our traditional public school.

    We have been faced with many obstacles over this last five years of existence. Our curriculum supplements the people, places and things in the community both inside and outside the four walls of the classroom. We feel we have created a community of learners who will grow up to be our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and perhaps even relatives, who will maintain the rural values we have come to accept from our community.

    In our rural community, the kids may learn a science lesson but will go the creek to actually get the water sample and then test it and send the results into the state. The students may have clubs of archery supported by a social organization, junior master gardeners taught by community master gardeners, or participate in the Cadet Air Corp with county airmen. Our students even raft the Wabash River and learn about local history, math and science in a local graveyard.

    We are located ten miles from the county seat and the entire county is less than 20,000 people. Our township is one of nine and we have 344 households. Our building can house 180 students at full capacity and we currently have an enrollment of 147. The primary concern is transportation because in Indiana the public charter schools only receive general funds with no transportation, debt services, capital projects, technology, and many other funds our traditional counterparts receive. This also means that not all staff members are compensated nearly as well as their traditional counterparts, and yet with lower pay and multiple responsibilities their passion is the driving force. This lack of funding also keeps our students at a disadvantage for equal learning opportunities. We have a kitchen to serve lunches but we need equipment to prepare the food to be eligible for the national lunch program. The federal government offers a stimulus for only those who already have the national lunch program versus the ones who do not to feed the 50 percent free and reduced student base we serve.

    We feel blessed with the partnerships we currently have with hot lunches prepared by our local hospital, parent and community volunteers who add to the curriculum along with the many benevolent, veteran, fraternal, social, higher education, and for-profit organizations who lend their support in supplementing the education of our K-8 students. Their contributions make learning real and help students understand why they need to learn what they learn. Differentiated classrooms in math, language arts and reading are utilized to place students where they are ready to learn.

    We are proud of our heritage and glad to be writing part of the history we will become in education. We have made AYP for the four years we have been eligible, even in the free and reduced category, and we are recognized for “exemplary status” for academic excellence by the state. We are highly accountable to our sponsor and thank them for the opportunities they have given to Indiana education by being Indiana’s only institution of higher learning that has become an authorizer in Indiana.

    The choice in education has meant better schools in our county. The competition has created a fight over dollars but the students are the real winners as we all become more creative in dispensing education that works in our rural area.

  20. No Child Left Behind has been an improperly funded, poorly thought out, and ineffectively administered program. It should be abandoned. The educational community should be backing a movement that will put an end to the ever increasing number of dropouts in our high schools and start an educational movement that will keep our high school students in school through to graduation. Apparently, the original intent of NCLB was to improve our failing schools but it has done just the opposite. The testing statistics can be used to prove this point. With that in mind, let us strive to improve education from the inside out and not from the outside in. Teachers, administrators, parents and children, as the major stakeholders in the educational process, must be considered as the major players and developers of any helpful improvement in our failing educational system. We must meet the needs of the stakeholders and the needs of political leaders must be kept to a minimum. Unfortunately, NCLB has become mired in the misuse of political power and obviously does not properly address the needs of the true stakeholders in our schools.

  21. The United States of American needs a national set of HIGH standards that all schools must meet in order for students to receive a diploma. For those students unable to meet those standards, another route must be available to help these students become successful, contributing members of society. In the past 30 years the education standards in this country have declined as schools have become more concentrated on teaching to the middle or lower students in the class. Students not reading/performing at grade level in grades 1 – 3 need to be given more time to learn these important skills. Parents also need to be held accountable for teaching their children respect and the desire to learn!
    If we want to have a system where teachers are evaluated by their peers, have all teachers go through the process for becoming a Nationally Board Certified teacher. Education universities need to stop being afraid of refusing to grant certificates to poorly performing student teachers.

    I am a teacher of 25+ years who has been certified twice with NBPT.

  22. No Child Left Behind has been an improperly funded, poorly thought out, and ineffectively administered program. It should be abandoned. The educational community should be backing a movement that will put an end to the ever increasing number of dropouts in our high schools and start an educational movement that will keep our high school students in school through to graduation. Apparently, the original intent of NCLB was to improve our failing schools but it has done just the opposite. The testing statistics can be used to prove this point. With that in mind, let us strive to improve education from the inside out and not from the outside in. Teachers, administrators, parents and children, as the major stakeholders in the educational process, must be considered as the major players and developers of any helpful improvement in our failing educational system. We must meet the needs of the stakeholders and the needs of political leaders must be kept to a minimum. Unfortunately, NCLB has become mired in the misuse of political power and obviously does not properly address the needs of the true stakeholders in our schools.

  23. My greatest fear is that the Secretary and education department will be so focused on our largest, most challenging school districts that they will overlook the fact that the majority of school districts in our country are not like them; they are smaller, located in smaller communities, but with the same challenges of providing a first class education to all of the students they serve. There cannot be a one size fits all approach to education reform. Reforms must be tailored to size and needs. If this does not happen, we will be in the same situation we find ourselves in currently because of No Child Left Behind.

  24. I grew up in small town America surrounded by farms and we were the regional school for farm kids. I have been in education for over 30 years, retiring this school year. I have primarily worked in urban America and currently work in Stamford, Connecticut which I find to be a microcosom of most of American life.

    I am a school counselor and work closely with all families.
    I’d love to see the return in schools, especially with large populations of lower socio-economic groups to 21st century hands on approaches to learning. The old business and industrial arts model with updated course content. Farmers coming in and working with students with some of the modern technology and then making academic applications, etc.

    Because of our cultural and societal changes, students with less life experiences need more hands on exposures to life. I’d also like to find a way to have some urban students have some rural experiences in terms of vocational opportunities and vice-versa. “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”.

  25. Rural children have been left behind…….I work with rural schools in several states. I see a major disconnect in education and the work place. Schools and higher education are not connected. Work and schools are not connected. It is survival of the fittest. First, Secretary Duncan needs more on the ground time in rural schools across the nation. Second, he needs a rural development plan that incentivizes the connection of school, higher education, and work. Finally, educators in rural districts must be afforded every available avenue to professional development and advanced education. Schools of the Future will require a kind of connectivity with higher education, work, and community that can only be achieved with large dollar grants like the new US Department of Education Teacher Quality Partnership grant. But it must go much deeper into the cultures of low expectations……to break that culture and to break the rural poverty cycle….we need a teacher quality partnership grant on steroids…….one that develops the pragmatic anchors needed for our rural children to secure 21st century skills that enable them, our nation, to compete with India and China.

  26. Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts on this issue.

    One of the major challenges to improving education in rural communties is recruitment and retention of teachers and other education personnel. Educators in rurual communities are usually paid lower salaries even though they have to assume multiple roles. It is difficult for school systems in rurual areas to compete with school systems that offer higher salaries and more support systems, especially for new teachers.

    In addition, rural communities typically do not have high concentrations of students who are members of the federally defined subgroups to generate enough funds to make significent and long-term improvements.

  27. There is a “critical mass” in crisis management planning in small rural schools. I just completed a three year study of crisis management planning in Illinois public schools. The research clearly indicates that rural schools across the United States need a systematic approach to crisis management planning. I have applied for ARRA funds from both the State and Federal level to assist these schools with a prototype plan which was developed specifically for rural schools. The United States Rural School Safety Project has been met with responses such as “While it certainly has merit it is not a focus of the funds at this time.” The safety of our students should be first and foremost.

  28. The key to rural education in America is to recognize that “critical mass” is the major obstacle to overcome. Many small schools in middle America must stay open because there is a “critical mass” issues related to geography. Busing can only reach so far and then there must be a school. There is a “critical mass” issue with at-risk and special education. One student with serious issues can de-stabilize a small rural system both culturally and financially. There is a “critical mass” issue with ability to recruit and retain staff in rural America. Fewer students generate fewer dollars and thus lower pay and difficulties in recruitment. There is a “critical mass” issue in rural schools just being recognized for what their needs are and how to address them. Regional services are being tried in many places but even they cannot react to all of the issues. A regional buying group may not be able to achieve a “critical mass” to get books and supplies at an affordable price. There is a critical mass issue with technology. Small rural schools can buy computers but they have a huge struggle maintaining and modernizing them. Rural education does a great job on the basics but advancing students in specialty areas including the arts leaves them a “critical mass” short. Fewer and fewer rural schools are able to offer advanced classes like international baccalaureate or AP. While competition in higher education requires that students have those experiences. “Critical mass” in dollars, kids, curriculum, property value, geography, and federal aid are all issues that should be on someone’s radar.

  29. Nobody likes to hear this(old man philosphy) but my whole life (60 years) has spent in public schools, so I know what I’m talking about. Absolutely raise standards,that way you will have a chance to get education back on the level that we experienced “back in the day”. If we don’t make each person accountable for their own grades and actions, we’ll continue to escalate into a “bail-out” society(are we there yet?). We’ve watered down standards and school work for years,it’s time to buckle up and have everybody pull their own weight(HMMM,that is Biblical-2 Thess. 3:10) Thanks for you time.

  30. Transportation is a big problem for rural education. Schools are very spread out; kids have to go a long way to get to school, and they end up spending a great deal of time on buses. That takes a great toll on kids and on their families.
    The shrinking of rural America also has a great impact on rural schools: fewer resources, fewer kids…

  31. The last administration left us with this mess. The current administration can only ride out the devastation it will leave behind.
    The teachers are “on the front lines” here at home. If we can teach our children to take part and take an interest in the culture of our country, we may be able to survive. We can not continue on as if everything was “OK” when it is not. Teach your children to be aware and to be interested in the world. Watch the world change! Engage your mind.

  32. I duncan should be supported, more people should comment. He is the secretary of education. my civics teacher told me about hem and that he is listening to students and teachers both to what they have to say about education. My civics teacher says “when I was at your age nobody in the government asked what I think about anything, which means you guys have a chance to do something I never got to do”. My civics teacher is a cool guy and well i wanted to something tell kids in that there getting a chance to talk to the government well not actually but still its the secretary of education. I say you kids should stop playing and say something for once I’m in middle school and i finally get to say something at a young so i say use that chance say what you want about what think of education. But don’t say things your not suppose to OK.

  33. The Arizona Republican legislature is getting ready to decimate public education and layoff 6000 teachers. The stimulus package is of no help and although Arizona is adding students, the reduction in teachers will have a devastating effect on children and increase the unemployment rolls in Arizona. No one seems interested in providing any assistance here even though former governor Janet Napolitano was supported by over 50 percent of the electorate. How about a little help here?

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