The Faces of

Rural School Reform

Jeremy Price A326 – School Reform: Curricular and Instructional Leadership 21 January 2003
Professor: Katherine K. Merseth Teaching Fellow: Eric Toshalis

Jeremy Price

The Faces of Rural School Reform

21 January 2003

TABLE OF CONTENTS
PREFACE: THE TAPESTRY ............................................................................................ II THE CD-ROM.............................................................................................................. III INTRODUCTION: MAKING THE CASE FOR RURAL SCHOOL REFORM ........................... 1
A SNAPSHOT OF THE NUMBERS ........................................................................................................... 1 BEYOND THE NUMBERS ........................................................................................................................ 2

ISSUES SURROUNDING RURAL SCHOOL REFORM ........................................................ 3
A BIFURCATION OF CONCEPTIONS ...................................................................................................... 3 SYSTEMIC ISSUES .................................................................................................................................. 8

SUGGESTIONS FOR RURAL SCHOOL REFORM ............................................................. 11

SCHOOL-COMMUNITY INTERDEPENDENCE ....................................................................................... 11 A PEDAGOGY OF PLACE...................................................................................................................... 12 A MULTI-CULTURAL APPROACH ....................................................................................................... 13 BUILDING BRIDGES WITH TECHNOLOGY ........................................................................................... 15

POSTSCRIPT: A BETTER PLACE TO BE ..................................................................... 17 APPENDIX ..................................................................................................................... 18 SOURCES ...................................................................................................................... 19 ART CREDITS ............................................................................................................... 21

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PREFACE: THE TAPESTRY
“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” – Muriel Rukeyser

My mother, having grown up in Brooklyn, never liked living in the city. My father, the son of a Midwest salesman, was used to moving around. When I was eight, having just completed the third grade, my family moved from a small college town of about fifteen thousand people to rural Lewis County, NY, not far from the Canadian border. The county stretched from the rugged Adirondack Mountains westward to the Tug Hill Plateau. Self-proclaimed as “God’s Country,” cows outnumbered people 4-to-1, and many of the families still lived as dairy farmers, much as generations of their family had since settling Northern New York after leaving their Western Massachusetts towns for more expansive farmland. Convoys of soldiers rumbled by our house year-round on their way to nearby Fort Drum, and fighter jets from the Rome Air Force Base screamed overhead in mock aerial battle over a landscape that resembled Central Europe. In the winter, the arctic winds from the north would swoop down across Lake Ontario unencumbered, gaining energy and moisture. Encountering its first barrier, the Tug Hill Plateau, the cold air would drop massive amounts of snow, and then moved it around as if to test out different landscape combinations. Snow drifts easily towered above six feet, serving as a winter wonderland for a boy with a vivid imagination. We were occasionally invited by our Mennonite farmer “neighbors” to share sugar-on-snow, hot freshly tapped maple syrup that became gooey candy after being poured on cold snow. Summers were spent hiking through open cow pastures and scrambling under barbed-wire fences to a nearby waterfall deep within our neighbors’ land, hidden to all except us, our farmer neighbors, and the meandering cows. Just two years later, we moved once again, to Columbia County, NY, further south with more hospitable weather and a little less rural. Columbia County is an attractive region of New York State1, just three hours from New York City and two hours-and-a-half hours from Boston, nestled between the Hudson River and the Taconic/Berkshire Mountain Range. When we first moved there, tourism was on the rise, but farms were still viable. That changed rapidly. I attended public schools throughout my entire pre-college education, even though my sixth-grade teacher tried her best to convince my parents to send me to a nearby private day school. The Copake-Taconic Hills Central School District, my alma mater, stretched over five towns, making it the 35th largest district area in New York State; I graduated with only 98 other students. Learning about school reform is learning to hear the voices of those who are often silenced or lost in the clamor. The voices of those who live in rural areas are yet more voices deserving of an ear – followed by action.
1

The Nature Conservancy has named Columbia County one of the “Last Great Places” (see http://www.lastgreatplaces.org/berkshire/geography/art6546.html).

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THE CD-ROM
The CD-ROM included with this report contains this paper, the presentation that was given in section on 15 January 2003, and two simple school change simulations, one of a rural scenario and one of an urban scenario.

Getting Started
On a computer running a version of Microsoft Windows, the CD-ROM should open the Introduction Program automatically. If the CD-ROM fails to begin automatically on a Windows computer, open the CD-ROM and double-click on the “INTRO.EXE” icon. If the CD-ROM is being used with a computer running a version of Apple MacOS, open the CD-ROM and double-click on the “MACINTRO” icon. The Introduction Program requires Macromedia Flash Player 6, available at http://www.macromedia.com/shockwave/download/download.cgi?P1_Prod_Version= ShockwaveFlash&P5_Language=English or by clicking the icon labeled “Macromedia Flash Player Download Center.”

Using the Introduction Program
The Introduction Program presents a very short slideshow. The main menu is then presented. The options are: Read Paper (Microsoft Word): Opens the Microsoft Word version of this paper. Read Paper (PDF): Opens the Adobe PDF version of this paper with Adobe Acrobat. View Rural Simulation: Opens the Rural Environment School Change Simulation in a Web Browser (such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator). View Urban Simulation: Opens the Urban Environment School Change Simulation in a Web Browser (such as Microsoft Internet Explorer of Netscape Navigator). View PowerPoint Presentation: Opens the PowerPoint presentation delivered during section on 15 January 2003. Exit: Quits the Introduction Program.

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Running the Simulations
The simulations are intended to demonstrate how rates and frequencies of change can differ in rural versus urban areas simply due to differences in population densities. The mini-blackboards ( ) in the simulation can represent teachers, administrators, school districts, or a combination of the three – for the purposes of the simulation it doesn’t matter. Mini-blackboards with red or green chalk represent entities that wish to bring about change – again, for the purposes of the simulation it doesn’t matter what the specific change is. Mini-blackboards with gray chalk represent entities maintaining the status quo. Mini-blackboards bringing change spread change through proximity – if one is next to a status quo mini-blackboard, there is a chance that the status quo miniblackboard will change to a red or green mini-blackboard. However, all miniblackboards have tendency towards the status quo, and if there is not significant enough reinforcement for change, all mini-blackboards will eventually return to the status quo state. It is recommended that the slider on the Slow-Fast Slide Bar be positioned about ¾ of the way towards the Fast end. If this is too fast or too slow, the slider can be adjusted at any point. It is important to compare the Rural Environment Simulation with the Urban Environment Simulation. Due to the low density of the Rural Environment, there may be no change apparent whatsoever, and all mini-blackboards will return to the status quo (gray chalk) state. Notice, however, that change occurs quickly and with great frequency in the Urban Environment. This is a very simple simulation – the real world is much complex. Creating a more realistic simulation would be a project in itself. This simulation is presented only to impress upon the reader that density can have an effect on the rate and frequency of change in schools.

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INTRODUCTION: MAKING THE CASE FOR RURAL SCHOOL REFORM
A Snapshot of the Numbers There is an emphasis on the change, reform, and betterment of the public school systems in urban areas. Because of the tendency to keep wealth and interest in areas where there is already wealth and power, these schools, often large, and the communities they serve, frequently high-poverty or high-minority populations, are deserving of the attention and study they receive. However, it is important to realize that urban populations are not the only population at a significant disadvantage when it comes to wealth, power, and, thus, education. A rural area is classified as an area or town of 2,500 people or less. Roughly fourteen percent of all Americans, or approximately 61,655,348 people, live in a rural area. Of the children living in these rural areas, almost 17% are ethnic minorities and 18% live in poverty. The ethnic minority breakdown generally mirrors the minority breakdown of the rest of the country. However, rural areas tend to be poorer than urban areas on the whole – of the 250 poorest counties in the United States, 244 are rural (Beeson & Strange 2000). Further points of interest can be found in the Appendix. The Rural School and Community Trust conducted a broad-ranging survey of rural communities and schools on a state-by-state basis (Beeson & Strange 2000). The results indicate that on average, the rural teacher’s salary is about $6,124 less than their urban or suburban counterparts, 21.8% of rural schools scored below average on the Education Climate Index for the 19971998 school year, and 28.8% of rural householders over the age of 18 have less than a 12th-grade education. Combining indicators of importance (such as rural population, poverty levels, and minority levels) with indicators of urgency (such as salary differentials, Education Climate Index scores, and education levels), the Rural School and Community Trust has developed a ranking of

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states’ needs for rural school reform. The states ranking highest in the importance and urgency scales are found in the Deep South, Appalachia, and the northern Great Plains. A representative overview of the various rankings of states providing a snapshot of the range of situations rural communities may find themselves can be found in the Appendix. Beyond the Numbers Rural populations tend to be geographically distant from one another and culturally distinct from urban and suburban areas. In addition, rural communities are often distinct from one another – a rural town in California looks very different than a rural town in West Virginia or Massachusetts – contributing to the complexity of the situation (Beeson & Strange 2000). The dispersion and diversity of rural communities make it difficult for a strong voice to emerge championing the cause of rural schools and the education of rural children. Due to these factors, rural schooling has largely been ignored in the national debate on education (Beeson & Strange 2000). These factors additionally make it difficult for national policy directives to introduce meaningful change at a local rural community level (Kannapel 2000). However, rural schools also tend to be small, with small student populations and low student-to-teacher ratios (Dunn). Small schools have the potential to provide a sense of intimacy and trust, leading to higher performance and a clearer sense of direction after graduation on the part of the students (Noguera 2002). It is hoped that the preceding pages have established a sense of urgency for examining school reform in a rural context. In the following pages, the various qualitative issues impacting rural school reform will be explored further in-depth. In addition, suggestions for starting the long and arduous, yet extraordinarily important, journey toward changing rural schools in beneficial and meaningful ways.

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ISSUES SURROUNDING RURAL SCHOOL REFORM
A Bifurcation of Conceptions While 14% of the American population lives in what is defined as a rural area, this is a small proportion of the general populace when compared against the number of people living in urban or suburban areas. As such, many of the policy makers on the national and state levels focus much of the attention is away from rural schools. This can be seen as due to two different types of misconceptions on the part of urbanites and suburbanites toward rural Americans: The View of the World from 9th Avenue Syndrome and Prejudices and Stereotypes.
The View of the World from 9th Avenue Syndrome

The cover of the March 26, 1979, edition of the New Yorker featured an illustration by Saul Steinberg (Figure 2), depicting a view of ever condensing space as distance from the vantage point on 9th Avenue increases (Arthur Ross Gallery 1995). The Hudson River on the west side of Manhattan is seen as impossibly far away, while the landmass between the Hudson and the Pacific Ocean, the bulk of the United States, is seen as narrow and unimportant. This magazine cover has led to various modifications, such as “The BostoFigure 1. Saul Steinberg's View of the World from 9th Avenue, cover of the March 26, 1979, issue of New Yorker magazine (source: http://www.upenn.edu/ARG/archive/steinberg/steinberg.html).

nian’s View of the World,” often sold in tourist shops playing up the importance and centrality of a particular city or locale. In a similar fashion, educational reformers and policy makers, whether intentional or accidental, often experience a blind spot when it comes to rural schooling. State and federal education departments are frequently located in cities, even in overwhelmingly rural states, away

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from the realities and needs of the rural school. For the most part, officials, educational researchers, and the public at large see that which is close by or similar to one’s own experience as the most urgent order of business. The small populations, relative poverty, and decentralized nature of rural areas have contributed to their perceived foreign nature and apparent unimportance compared to the majority of Americans living in or near population centers. As described above in the previous section, the lack of a unified voice to champion the rural educational cause has further confounded the issue. American society is a culture fueled by economic progress, growth, and development. This progress essentially reduces what is rural – any problems inherently rural will eventually go away due to natural growth and development (Beeson & Strange 2000). Furthermore, there is a general sense of obscurity when precisely defining what “rural” means to the average American. As Beeson and Strange (2000: 1) state, “We are an urban society now, one that is pretty sure we know what ‘urban’ is, but not at all sure what ‘rural’ is.” All of the factors that fall under the “View of the World from 9th Avenue” Syndrome have led to interesting implications in pedagogy and instruction. As the transition from a rural to an urban American society greatly accelerated after World War II, the rural school “…increasingly prepared students to leave the area as it inculcated them with urban values and goals” (Edmondson 2001: 3). This emphasis on learning and teaching the knowledge and skills necessary for students to succeed in cities and population centers can be seen as “Reproductive.” Anyon (1981) defines “Reproductive” as, “aspects of school knowledge that contribute directly to the legitimation and perpetuation of ideologies, practices, and privileges constitutive of present economic and politi-

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cal structures” (30). Rural students are not taught what will be “Nonreproductive,” in other words, that knowledge necessary for transformation within a rural context (Anyon 1981). In some respects, the experience of the rural student can be seen as similar to the experience of the working class student according to Anyon (1981). Anyon highlights two important characteristics of working class students, that they are not taught their own history, nor were these students, “…taught to value the interests which they share with others…” (1981: 31). This form of ideological hegemony, according to Anyon, is engineered to maintain the social position of the upper classes. In a sense, teaching urban goals and values to rural students is perpetuating the urban lifestyle at the expense of the rural one. With this recognition, Anyon’s recommendation on their behalf rings as true for rural students as it does for the intended group, working-class students: “What is important is to make available to working-class [or rural] students the cultural and ideological tools to begin to transform perspicacity into power” (1981: 32).
Prejudices and Stereotypes

In an era of politically-correctness, where the language used to describe groups of people is scrutinized and carefully considered, and derogatory labels are largely condemned (rightly so), detrimental stereotypes and prejudices still exist when it comes to rural Americans. A survey of American popular media points to yet another bifurcation, where the prejudices and stereotypes range from the overtly negative and derogatory to the overly positive. The first category, the overtly negative, is comprised of terms
Figure 2. Cletus the SlackJawed Yokel, from the animated television show The Simpsons (source:

http://animatedtv.about.com/library/ weekly/aa050101a.htm).

such as redneck, hick, yokel, etc. For example, the television show The Simpsons, an animated

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series not particularly known for its gentle handling of any topic, has a character named Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel. Cletus, who speaks with an almost unintelligible Southern drawl, lives in a shack in a swamp with a wife or girlfriend and 26 children. The character is portrayed as backward, unsophisticated, unintelligent, and poor. While the statistics do point to the fact that many Americans living in rural areas are poor, connecting these attributes together can serve to reinforce misunderstandings and discrimination. On the other end of the spectrum are those depictions in the popular media that are overly positive, typecasting rural Americans as “noble savages,” or as unencumbered by the complexities of modern society. The portrayals of rural Americans as “noble savages,” philosophers who enjoy the simple the things in life, can be found in the now-defunct television show Northern Exposure, which was about a fictional small town in Alaska. In one episode, a town meeting concerning the placement of a stop sign became a lively debate about whether the issue was an expression of Jeffersonian or Hamiltonian democracy. The “News from Lake Wobegon” segment of the radio show A Prairie Home Companion often depicts rural life in central Minnesota as simple, predictable, and generally filled with good things. Garrison Keillor, the weekly crier of the “News,” recently gave a more accurate and realistic portrayal of rural life for an article in National Geographic. The writer, storyteller, and radio personality admitted, “…I had to invent the town [Lake Wobegon] like the imaginary friend I had in the second grade, David, who walked to school with me,” (Keillor 2000: 108). As roughly 86% of Americans do not live in rural areas and often do not have personal exposure to what life is like in a rural area, the media can be used to form conceptions. When rural Americans are portrayed as backward or leading a simple life, these views have the potential of leading to the development of a paternalistic or patronizing attitude on the behalf of urban

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and suburban Americans toward their rural counterparts. Even though it may be unintentional, the adoption of such an attitude may lead to the development of a power structure in which the urbanites and suburbanites have power, while the rural residents have no or little power. This power structure is further compounded by low population densities, relatively high poverty, and widespread ethnic and cultural diversity. Delpit (1988), writing primarily about the power structure inherent between liberal, well meaning White teachers and students of color, posits that power structures found in society are played out in the classroom. Evidence of this is mentioned above as rural students are taught in terms of urban values and goals (Edmondson 2001). Delpit further contends that a “culture of power” exists where authority behavior is ritualized (those in power talk a certain way, write a certain way, dress a certain way, interact a certain way), and those with power are able to create these rituals and rules. Also inherent in her thesis is that those without power will have an easier time acquiring power if the rules and rituals are made explicit. Lastly, a Catch-22 situation exists in which those with power are least aware of – or least likely to acknowledge – the power structure in place, while those without power are the ones most keenly aware of the inequalities (Delpit 1998: 283). It should be further noted that Delpit (1988) makes specific mention of students living in rural conditions in her work with Native Alaskans2. She describes the dichotomy between “Heritage English” and “Formal English” – the former pertains to English spoken between Native Alaskans in their small village, peppered with Athabaskan words and phraseology, while the latter pertains to the English found in textbooks and spoken by non-Athabaskans. The teacher described in the article embraced this dichotomy, and allowed and encouraged students to succeed in both modes of communication. Delpit asserts, “It is not they, the children, who must
2

Delpit’s article is the only article to specifically address rural concerns in the A326 course reader.

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change, but the schools. To push children to do anything else is repressive and reactionary” (1988: 291). Cultural differences exist between rural Americans and urban and suburban Americans. Due to sheer numbers and wealth, the cultural advantage lies with those living in larger population centers. As the wealthy move away from the cities to the far suburbs and even rural areas, they bring with them a transformation of the rural economy (the establishment of tourism, small boutiques, and technology-based work conditions). This economic transformation will likely be played out in the classroom as well (Dunn). It is important to critically examine any reform movement for rural schools that had its genesis in the cities, suburbs, or due to the in-migration of the rich to rural areas. The arguments posited by Delpit (1988) support the importance of this critical examination and further provide essential benchmarks for judgment and improvement of these school reform movements as they filter down to rural areas. Systemic Issues Not only are the people that inhabit rural areas culturally distinct, rural schools themselves are qualitatively different than their urban and suburban counterparts. A solution instituted with primarily urban or suburban schools in mind, even if successful, may not work at a school or school district in a rural area (Kannapel 2000). While there has recently been a push for smaller schools to improve education, rural schools inherently tend to be small. This is despite a drive over the decades calling for the consolidation of schools and school districts in rural areas, to make rural schools more closely resemble the larger urban and suburban schools. The rural school often occupies the geographic and social center of the community it serves; consolidation of rural school districts can be met

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with great resistance3 (Dunn). Larger schools can be beneficial in terms of offering more curricular choice to students (NASBE 1996). However, these advantages are often canceled out by the loss of the benefits of small schools (intimacy, trust, and evidence of improved student performance [Noguera 2002]) and by the increased costs of new specialized staff and the increased maintenance of a larger facility (NASBE 1996). It is further likely that a new wave of consolidation is waiting to break (Dunn). The debate on standards is a reform effort that has been receiving widespread attention. Now more than ever, school funding, as well as individual student success, are tied directly to meeting standards, demonstrated by the administration of high-stakes standardized exams (U.S. Department of Education 2002). As educational thinkers and researchers attempt to reconcile the currently strong standards movement with theories of learning – such as balancing state policy and local control and standardized exams and public exhibitions (Sizer & Rogers 1993), and examining student growth over time as way to meet the standards (Wolf & White 2000) – and teachers and administrators struggle to determine the impact of the new stringent regulations on their classrooms and districts, rural schools are placed in a unique position. Researchers and rural education advocates see the purposes of rural schools in part to be the preservation of the endangered rural lifestyle and communities and the teaching of knowledge within a rural context. The generic nature of the standards movement can be seen as a way of undermining these purposes (Kannapel 2000).

3 The school district I attended from the 6th-grade through the 12th-grade, the Copake-Taconic Hills Central School District, was formed by the merger of two smaller rural districts. Numerous attempts were made over three decades to construct a new campus that would adequately accommodate the larger student population, each time defeated because district constituents were loathe to give up the feeling that they were still a small a localized district (Price 2003). Even consolidated, the Copake-Taconic Hills District, the 35th largest in terms of area in New York State encompassing five towns, served fewer than 1,500 students K-12. A new K-12 campus was eventually constructed, winning several design and architectural awards and citations (see http://www.rhinebeckarchitecture.com/Taconic%20Hills%20Awards.htm), and doing the community proud (although it was well after I graduated from college).

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Fullan (1999) posits that in order for change to be transferred from one district to another, it is more important to transfer the circumstances in which the change took place than to transfer the change itself. In other words, while larger schools and statewide standards may serve some schools well and may in fact create pockets of success, these reform efforts may or may not work in a rural context. In Fullan’s view, the schools that are best served by such broad-reaching reform efforts are those schools that are ready to embrace those reform efforts. It is therefore important to include a, “…theory of action (e.g. a set of strategies for addressing local conditions) as well as a theory of education” (emphasis added) in school reform proposals (Fullan 1999: 645). Rural schools, with their special circumstances and needs, would especially benefit from such consideration. Rural schools are also unique in that they represent and serve a low population density and geographically far-flung communities. The simulations on the CD-ROM included with this report demonstrate that change has the opportunity to occur much more quickly and with greater frequency as density increases and distance decreases. These findings emphasize the necessity of having the changes themselves come from the institutions most affected by the change (the rural school districts themselves), and this change over a wide scale may occur slowly, with adjustments necessary for each different community. The silver lining in all of this, however, may be found in a paradox: rural school districts, in all their diversity and geographic diffusion, which can cause widespread change to occur slowly, may be very receptive to change, as a system in chaos tends to gravitate towards equilibrium (Kushman & Barnhardt 2001). The conditions for change to occur, as Fullan puts it, may exist, waiting for a system of change that includes a theory of action that firmly situates reform within rural contexts.

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SUGGESTIONS FOR RURAL SCHOOL REFORM
The Annenberg Rural Challenge has published a statement regarding “Genuinely Good Schools Serving and Served by Rural Communities.” They developed a list of three characteristics that exemplify good rural schools (Leo-Nyquist 2001)4:
They are in reciprocal relationships with their communities, recognizing their interdependence and their larger educational purposes; They are developing a pedagogy of place; They are accepting responsibility to be bi-cultural institutions, allowing students to succeed in different environments, both rural and urban.

Each characteristic will be explored in the following pages, as well as an additional suggestion, utilizing technology to bridge rural communities together. School-Community Interdependence Frequently, the school is the social center of the rural community (Dunn); in lieu of community centers and cultural institutions, the school serves as a gathering point for members of the community (Kushman & Barnhardt 2001). Any attempt at change or reform of a rural school district or districts, should be keenly aware of this fact, and embrace it. Unlike in urban districts, which often grapple with the dilemmas of busing students out of their neighborhoods to different schools, there is often only one school serving one or several towns. The surrounding community has a true opportunity to become an integral part of the educational process, especially when considering the fact that, “in many rural communities there is… an essential connection between education, economic vitality, and community health” (Kushman & Barnhardt 2001: 13).
It is interesting to note that these characteristics, especially the first two, roughly mirror the ideas related in my personal Purpose of Schooling (Price 2002). I did not come across the Annenberg characteristics until after the purpose paper had been handed in. It goes to show you that you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy. - 11 4

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Therefore, rural schools and communities should be encouraged to work together toward the common goals of student learning and community preservation. Local businesses and employers can become a part of the process by sponsoring the showcasing of local student academic and artistic accomplishments. The community can also become a part of a larger movement to elevate the social and economic status of teachers. The most academically successful students tend to leave rural areas for higher education, and tend to stay away due to the lack of jobs (Haas 1992). By providing social and economic incentives for these people to return to rural areas after university or graduate study as a teacher, this is likely to not only improve the quality of teaching in rural areas, but also allowing students to connect better with teachers who have many of the same experiences and background. A Pedagogy of Place Much of a rural economy is based on resources situated within a specific geographic context (Dunn), such as farming, mining, tourism, and eco-tourism. Similarly, rural schools should be encouraged to draw from their locale, both in terms of content and in terms of goals. Keeping pedagogy and curriculum within a local context, “…tends to deepen knowledge through the larger understandings of the familiar and accessible. It clearly increases student understanding and often gives a stronger impetus to apply problem-solving skills” (Raymer 2001). Many rural areas are rich in terms of environmental and science resources in general, as well as possessing rich local histories, waiting to be explored. Low population densities often result in large areas of open space, providing a wealth of hands-on experience in terms of scientific testing (water and air quality, for example), a chance to learn about a large variety of ecosystems often not possible in urban or suburban settings, and the opportunity to

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observe first-hand the impact of humans on local animal populations and the environment atlarge. Local history, legends, and myths are struggling to survive as textbooks increasingly emphasize the importance of cities, while the early rural character of America, and the supporting roles rural areas have played in the development of urban America (by providing building resources, labor, and food), have fallen to the wayside. This presents rural students the possibility to document local history and stories through a variety of media, such as writing, video interviews, and the creation of local history Web sites. In addition to content, schools should be encouraged to look to the local community to assist in setting overarching goals. By incorporating aspects of the local economy into the curriculum, such as requiring students to take a course in agriculture, geology, or some other trade-based course, as well as a course in local history, the goals of the community are given credence and are set as an institutional priority by the school (Haas 1992). This further grants students the cultural capital (Anyon 1981) required for true choice. While students can choose to leave the rural area, presenting remaining in the rural area as a viable option allows rural Americans to cause transformation from within in a meaningful way. A Multicultural Approach As mentioned earlier, Delpit (1988) relates the story of Athabaskan Alaskans communicating in two different languages: “Heritage English” and “Formal English.” The teacher described in study states, “We have to feel a little sorry for them because they have only one way to talk. We’re going to learn two ways to say things. Isn’t that better?” (Delpit 1988: 293). Just as the language of those who live in rural areas may be qualitatively different from those who live in urban or suburban areas, their culture, mores, and traditions may be different as well. These differences should be recognized and embraced; however, just as necessary is the

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recognition that there is a wider world, much of it urban, and it is necessary to prepare rural students to participate in it (Haas 1992). As progress in the United States is essentially defined as urban (Beeson & Strange, 2000), these bicultural5 skills are essential. Intertwined with this idea is the necessity of embracing a multicultural mindset in general, recognizing the existence of diversity within the local rural community – non-White ethnic groups can account for upwards of 85% of the rural population in states in the Deep South and Southwest (Beeson & Strange 2000) – as well as the global community at large. For improving bicultural learning, there is the possibility that by exploring one’s own (rural) heritage, the rural student will become enamored by the learning process in general and become more receptive to learning to operate in other cultural settings (Oliver & Howley 1992), such as an urban lifestyle. Teaching local history and local economic skills, and emphasizing local cultural capital are paramount to this process. If localizing the curriculum does indeed impact critical thinking in a positive manner (Raymer 2001), then schools should be encouraged to help students transfer these skills to a broader range of applications, such as those which may be found in an urban setting. One way to improve multicultural learning is to increase the exposure of students to external cultures (Oliver & Howley 1992). This increased exposure can occur by hiring from outside of the rural area or utilizing staff from such programs as Teach for America; while this seems to contradict the earlier recommendation of hiring from a local talent pool, achieving a balance would be the goal. Curricular changes (such as using utilizing ethnic holidays as the basis for lessons and school assemblies), field trips to museums or cultural festivals, or inviting guest speakers can also expose students to variety of worldviews in a more formal way. Rural communities must also look inside themselves to recognize their own diversity and how they
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react to it, which can be a painful growing experience – schools have the opportunity to engage students in this pursuit, and support students to encourage the community at large to do the same. Building Bridges with Technology Much has been written about the promise of computers in schools; one thing is for certain, however, technology is not a magic bullet, nor will it revolutionize education by itself (Cuban 2001). However, when the hype, which is the natural byproduct of the promotion of any reform movement, is set aside, there are advantages that technology can offer to rural schools. One of the critiques of small schools, which most rural districts tend to represent, is the lack of curricular choice (NASBE 1996). Forming regional or national consortiums of rural schools in order to offer online courses is one way of expanding the scope of instruction at these small districts. Teachers can be encouraged to teach focused online courses that highly interest them, or on which they have specialized knowledge. While sufficient student interest may not be found to support within the confines of a small local rural school, when expanding the reach to a regional or national level, there may be more than enough student interest. Drawing upon existing teaching talent can renew an interest in teaching a particular subject area, possibly the subject area in which the teacher specialized. A disproportionately high percentage of rural teachers are being required to teach out-of-field (Beeson & Strange 2000), which, according to some accounts, is contributing to the qualified teacher attrition rate (Fordham Foundation 1999). National organizations, such as Maynard, MA-based Virtual High School, exist to facilitate this process. A survey of Virtual High School’s Web site (http://www.govhs.org/) shows that some rural districts are taking full advantage of this opportunity to share: Anna High School in Anna, OH, offers “Democracy in America?,” the West Rutland School in Rutland County, VT, offers “Creating Art History,” Rigby High School in Rigby, ID, offers “Exploring

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the International Business World,” Ackerman High School in Choctaw County, MS, offers “Anatomy and Physiology,” and Monroe Senior High School in Lower Peachtree, AL, offers “To Kill A Mockingbird: Maycomb – Microcosm to the World.” This is an exciting array of courses that could supplement the core courses and electives offered at any one rural school. In the rural tradition of looking within, however, it is also suggested that rural regions could themselves form consortiums. Regional vocational technology centers have often expanded their roles to include providing information infrastructure support (Questar III). These regional organizations can work to empower the teachers and districts in rural areas to teach interesting and innovative online courses to students throughout the region. This type of activity serves to provide an interesting topic to the teacher, and helps to expand the possibilities and options of the students.

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The Faces of Rural School Reform

21 January 2003

POSTSCRIPT: A BETTER PLACE TO BE
“…’Cause I know I’m going nowhere, and anywhere’s a better place to be.” – Harry Chapin, “A Better Place To Be”6

“But didn’t it work out well for you?” The question was posed by my wife, a native of the sprawling Northern California suburbs, as I was telling her about my ideas for this report. She is generally skeptical when I reminisce about my rural upbringing, and made me promise that we would never live anywhere we would have to plug our cars in overnight, as my family did in Lewis County to keep the engines from freezing. “Haven’t you done well despite the fact that your rural schooling was instilled with urban values and goals?” I could only answer that, yes, it has worked out well for me despite all that. I’m attending perhaps the most widely recognized university in the world, and we just bought a house in suburban Boston. How can I complain? I’m not sure if I’ll ever move back, there just aren’t enough opportunities – I guess I’ve progressed, in the (urban) American sense of the word. Some of the best and the brightest leave and don’t come back. Many more in rural America are left undiscovered because school doesn’t fit them, and doesn’t provide them with the options that will help them develop into who they want to be. I wonder what would happen if things were different, if we looked inward and outward the same; I wonder what would happen if school, curriculum, and community were closely intertwined….

This song takes place in Watertown, NY, the nearest city (population 26,705) for us when we lived in Lewis County, NY. Harry Chapin often introduced the song with, “This song takes place in Watertown, NY. I spent a week there one afternoon….” - 17 -

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APPENDIX

Combined rural school reform Importance and Urgency Scales by state. Red indicates the most importance and urgency for rural school reform, followed by dark orange, light orange, yellow, light green, and then dark green, indicating the least importance and urgency for rural school reform (adapted from Beeson & Strange 2000).
Rural Importance Gauge Rural Urgency Gauge
Percentage of Rural Children in Poverty 7.7% 12.0% 16.4% 14.1% 12.9% 17.8% 15.7% 14.3% 19.9% 37.4% 33.7% 21.4% 28.5% Difference in salary between rural teachers and nonrural teachers $904 $6,111 $5,686 $3,015 $5,014 $2,554 $1,307 $3,770 $2,241 $370 $1,923 $3,863 $2,352 Percent of rural schools scoring below average on Education Climate Index (97-98) 0.0% 0.6% 8.9% 11.0% 4.8% 7.1% 19.8% 6.2% 43.9% 34.8% 63.0% 30.2% 47.9% Percent of rural householders with less than 12thgrade education 16.1% 25.6% 16.9% 28.5% 24.5% 23.0% 28.2% 23.4% 41.8% 34.3% 47.5% 35.3% 44.1%

State
Massachusetts New York California Ohio Iowa Wyoming Alaska Maine Georgia New Mexico Mississippi North Dakota West Virginia

Percent of Population in Rural Areas 15.7% 15.7% 7.4% 25.9% 39.4% 35.0% 32.5% 55.4% 36.8% 27.0% 52.9% 46.7% 63.9%

Number of People Living in Rural Areas 946,822 2,826,408 2,188,700 2,807,706 1,093,690 158,953 178,808 680,104 2,380,877 409,418 1,362,487 298,461 1,145,293

Percent of minority students enrolled in rural schools 3.8% 4.6% 29.7% 1.9% 2.2% 9.9% 69.3% 2.2% 26.8% 62.9% 49.7% 10.5% 2.6%

United States (average for all 50 states)

24.8% 61,655,348 (total)

16.4%

18.0%

$6,124

21.8%

28.8%

Representative overview of rural community and rural school statistics based on importance and urgency ranking categories (from Beeson & Strange 2000). The colors correspond to the color scheme of the map above.

Salient Points About Rural America An African-American is more likely to live in poverty in a rural area than in an inner city (Beeson & Strange 2000). Rural teens are more likely to use and abuse substances ranging from tobacco and alcohol to marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, and crack cocaine (Rouk 2001). The rural teenage pregnancy rate (38 births per 1,000 rural teenagers) is higher than the urban teenage pregnancy rate (29 births per 1,000 urban teenagers) (Rouk 2001). Rural youth gangs have increased triple-fold by some accounts in recent years (Rouk 2001).

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Sources
Anyon, J. (1981). Social Class and Social Knowledge. Curriculum Inquiry, 11(1), 3-41. Arthur Ross Gallery. (1995). Saul Steinberg Exhibit at Arthur Ross Gallery. <http://www.upenn.edu/almanac/v42/n11/back.html>. Retrieved 13 January 2003. Beeson, E. and M. Strange. (2000). Why Rural Matters: The Need for Every State to Take Action on Rural Education. The Rural School and Community Trust. <http://www.ruraledu.org/streport/summary.html>. Retrieved 12 January 2003. Cuban, L. (2001). Oversold & Underused: Computers in the Classroom. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Delpit, L. (1988). The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children. Harvard Education Review, 58(3), 280-298. Dunn, R. (Date Unknown). The Rural Education Dichotomy: Disadvantaged Systems and School Strengths. The North Central Educational Laboratory. <http://www.ncrel.org/policy/pubs/html/dichot.htm>. Retrieved 12 January 2003. Edmondson, J. (2001). Prairie Town: Rural Life and Literacies. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 17(1), 3-11. Fordham Foundation. (1999). The teachers we need and how to get more of them: A manifesto (pp. 1-18). In M. Kanstoroom & C. Finn, Jr., (Eds.) Better Teachers, Better Schools. Washington, D.C.: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. Fullan, M. (1999). Change Forces: The Sequel. Philadelphia: Palmer Press. Haas, T. (1992). What Can I Become: Educational Aspirations of Students in Rural America. ERIC Digest (ED345931). <http://www.ed.gov/databases/ERIC_Digests/ed345931.html>. Retrieved 12 January 2003. Kannapel, P. (2000). Standards-Based Reform and Rural School Improvement: Similarities, Differences, Prospects for the Future. Rural Education Issue Digest. <http://www.ael.org/rel/rural/pdf/digest2.pdf>. Retrieved 13 January 2003. Keillor, G. (2000). In Search of Lake Wobegon. National Geographic, 198(6), 86-109. Kushman, J. & Barnhardt, R. Reforming Education from the Inside-Out: A Study of Community Engagement and Educational Reform in Rural Alaska. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 17(1), 12-26. Leo-Nyquist, D. Recovering a Tradition of Rural Progressivism in American Public Education. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 17(1) 27-40.
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National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE). (1996). Rural Education: What’s Down the Road for Schools. <http://www.nasbe.org/Educational_Issues/Reports/Rural_Schools.pdf>. Retrieved 14 January 2003. Noguera, P. (2002). Beyond Size: The Challenge of High School Reform. Educational Leadership, 59(5), 60-63. Oliver, J. & Howley, C. Charting New Maps: Multicultural Education in Rural Schools. ERIC Digest (ED348196). <http://www.ed.gov/databases/ERIC_Digests/ed348196.html>. Retrieved 12 January 2003. Price, J. (2002). Purpose of Schooling. Unpublished paper, Harvard Graduate School of Education, A-326b, Section 7. Price, T. (2003). Telephone interview with the author. 5 January 2003. Questar III. (Date Unknown). Organization Profile. <http://www.questar.org/about_us/org_profile.htm>. Retrieved 16 January 2003. Raymer, A. (2001). Pedagogy of place facilitation guide: a workshop for cultivating and promoting place-based education. University of Kentucky Appalachian Center and the Appalachian Rural Education Network. <http://www.uky.edu/RGS/AppalCenter/publications/docs/Pedagogy-of-Place.pdf>. Retrieved 16 January 2003. Rouk, Ü. (2001). When Rural Traditions Really Count. SEDL Letter 13(1): Changes and Challenges for Rural Schools. <http://www.sedl.org/pubs/sedletter/v13n01/1.html>. Retrieved 13 January 2003. Sizer, T. & Rogers, B. (1993). Designing Standards: Achieving the delicate balance. Educational Leadership. Feb. 1993, pp. 24-26. U.S. Department of Education. (2002). Introduction: No Child Left Behind. <http://www.nochildleftbehind.gov/next/overview/index.html>. Retrieved 17 November 2002. Wolf, D. & White, A. (2000). What do we mean by results: Charting the course of student growth. Educational Leadership, 57(5), 6-11.

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Art Credits
Cover: “The Country School,” Winslow Homer (1871), http://govschl.ndsu.nodak.edu/~rausch/homerschool.gif. p. i: “Two Roads in a Yellow Wood,” taken by the author, in Canaan, NY. p. 3: “School Scene,” J. C. Huntington (early 20th-century), http://www.nmaa.si.edu/cgibin/search/isearch.pl?DB=pcdb_images&FPASS=N&FORMAT=one&FHIT=95&ESET =RECORD&QUERY=SUBJECT/folk+art. p. 11: “Snap the Whip,” Winslow Homer (1872), http://crh.choate.edu/english/salot/Snap the whip I.jpg. p. 17: “Shellsburg,” Arnold Pyle (1934), http://www.nmaa.si.edu/cgibin/search/isearch.pl?DB=pcdb_images&FPASS=N&FORMAT=one&FHIT=141&ESE T=RECORD&QUERY=SUBJECT/folk+art. Music on CD-ROM: “Fanfare for the Common Man,” composed by Aaron Copeland, performed by the United States of America Air Force Heritage of America Band (http://www.af.mil/accband/).

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