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There has been lots of talk about education reform recently, but rural schools are much part of the picture, writes Mary Schulken in her Rural Education column for Education week. There has been Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s Race To The Top competition and the attention of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (written about recently in the Washington Post).
But what does this have to do with rural education. “The [Gates] Foundation funded work around smaller schools in mostly urban places—a sort of ironic phenomenon, given the consolidation of rural schools. And they funded some early-college initiatives in places like rural Appalachian Ohio,” said Caitlin Howley, senior manager, education and research, for ICF International in Charleston, W.Va., an educational research firm and a Daily Yonder contributor. “But I don’t think rural is part of what they’ve been thinking about.”
“A lot of the things being pushed as reforms—particularly the focus on competitive grant-making—are simply just not a fit for small, rural school districts, where resources are so constrained and in many cases geographic isolation makes reforms such as charter schools useless,” said Marty Strange of the Rural School and Community Trust. “Don’t blame the relationship between the [Obama] administration and a foundation; it’s just that there are a lot of people in this administration that don’t get [what rural schools face],” he said.