Connecting Educators, Building Communities Across Rural America

In an increasingly interconnected world, we can no longer allow geography to be a barrier to education and opportunity in rural America.

Through the national broadband plan and unprecedented investments in education reform, the Obama administration is leveraging the power of technology to overcome distance and increase collaboration to accelerate student achievement in rural schools.

Today, the White House Rural Council announced the U.S. Department of Education’s new online community of practice group for rural schools. Virtual communities of practice provide a platform for educators to connect to resources, tools, colleagues, experts, and learning activities, both within and beyond schools.

Rural school leaders and teachers can join this online community for rural schools by logging-on to www.schoolturnaroundsupport.org and creating an account. As membership grows, rural educators will be able to connect with peers in their home states and across the nation to exchange ideas and learn from one another.


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This new community of practice is the latest effort to address the needs of rural educators. Last year, the Department of Education (ED) launched its school turnaround community to support Title I school improvement grantees. ED has scheduled a summer Webinar series to begin the dialog and introduce members to research-based best practices.

Turning around chronically low achieving schools is tough work and no one should feel they have to do this work alone.

The Department is turning to technology because it breaks down geographic barriers and addresses rural isolation in education. Opportunities for using the Internet as a bridge to overcome geography and bring new opportunities to rural areas will continue to increase.

I hope you will join our online school turnaround learning community and share what works in your rural schools.

Thank you for joining our community, and for your commitment to providing a world-class education to the students of rural America.

Arne Duncan is the secretary of education

5 Comments

  1. Absolutely I also applaud the push by this Administration to give rural schools and students greater internet access. I am a teacher in New York City, but I am originally from West Virginia where I spend a lot of my vacations visiting family. I know first-hand the difficulties with internet access in a rural area. I have spent much of my summer checking library hours and traveling the 15 miles to my mom’s house from my in-laws’ house to gain internet access to complete online learning classes.
    However, one concern I have is that, as internet learning becomes more accessible, there is a temptation by some to replace real teachers in the classroom with too many online courses when the purpose is to save the school system money, not to provide a higher quality education to the students. I am a proponent of online learning; I earned my master’s degree online and have taken advantage of the convenience online learning provides to me as a working mother. However, I have taken most of these classes with a colleague so that I still have the advantage real discussion provides, such as that that takes place in a classroom. Although I do see the advantage of being able to use the internet to provide rural students with access to high quality teachers (especially for specialty classes), I do not think that online classes at school or at home are always the best replacement for person to person interactions
    I absolutely think it is a necessity to have the ability to link rural teachers and students with the world via the internet. However, I would never want to see this advantage abused by local school boards just to save a dollar.

  2. I am thrilled with the opportunity to plug the principals in Idaho into a network on the web that might help them with similar situations and give them ideas. We are currently holding an Institute in Boise for 20 principals from around the state and most are from rural schools. We have named our group the Network of Innovative School Leaders but is basically bringing principals face to face to begin to build a network of administrators they can call for ideas and best practices. I believe those leaders that truly see the value in networking will do so by whatever means are available. So thank you Secretary Duncan for pursuing opportunities to support the rural schools of America.

  3. On-line learning is all well and good but how do the good teachers that have been screwed by poor administrators get their justice too?

    For years, the best teachers have been kept out of the classrooms in favor of political friends, sports moms and thugs. Now, it’s computer software packages taking over.

    The human nerds have been left in the cold by state bureaucrats, testing companies and school districts. Those who could have made a real, positive difference in the lives of America’s children have been swept aside for decades.

  4. I applaud the Administration’s push for greater internet access for rural students and their schools, and for recognizing the power of teachers networking.

    Some questions though: Is the idea to supplant or to unite already existing networks of rural teachers? I’m thinking here of such longstanding groups as the Bread Loaf (Rural) Teachers Network, and several others. Why a “School Turnaround” network? Is this only for teachers who are in schools considered low performing? Turning an online group into a viable, productive, ongoing learning community is a great challenge, even if the political winds don’t shift in November. If they do, what will happen to this fledgling network?

    I think it is a great idea, but it gives the impression that the idea is starting from scratch, when in fact, it could build on existing work and take it to a higher level.

  5. I am excited to see this idea grow. As a nine year virtual teacher and a former urban teacher I wish I had a platform to share my ideas. 30 minutes with Mr. Duncan and I would be a happy lady!

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