The Rural Conundrum

It’s hard to have a conversation about education policy innovation without someone saying, “Yes, but what about in the rural context?”  And that’s usually a good question, because a lot of policy-making at the federal level assumes certain conditions that are more true of urban areas: flexible labor markets for employees, student density, and access to robust post-secondary employment, to name a few.  Case in point, USED’s new requirements for the School Improvement Grant program are struggling to gain traction in rural areas because of what is perceived as an urban bias.

Michele McNeil at Edweek covered a meeting that Secretary Duncan had with rural school leaders last week to address those issues.  While I respect the difficulty of the issues being raised by the superintendents involved, I’m disappointed that more solutions weren’t proposed.  One of the superintendents interviewed for the piece outright rejects the idea that a principal could be replaced in her district, while another says that “the department needs to focus on using incentives to recruit principals to underserved areas, including his district in rural Mississippi.”  This bit is telling, though:

The $650 million Investing in Innovation, or i3, grants for school districts really aren’t even on the superintendents’ radar screens–even though there’s a specific competitive preference for projects that address the needs of rural schools.

Couldn’t this be a really good source of incentives for principals to work in rural areas?  These nine superintendents should apply together for a chunk of i3 money to do this.  They could partner with a leading principal preparation program (i.e. the UVA turnaround leaders academy) and create both a program and a set of real financial incentives for folks to lead schools in rural areas.

In any event, my point isn’t that the answer above is the right one.  My point is that it’s time to propose some real solutions, because there are literally billions of dollars on the table to figure out some complex stuff.

One Response to The Rural Conundrum

  1. Pingback: The Rural Conundrum « Meeting the Turnaround Challenge School’s Rate

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