Fifty rural school districts, including Sandy Creek, Pulaski, Mexico, Gouverneur and Thousand Islands, have joined forces with Harvard University as part of the National Center for Rural Education Research Networks, an initiative of the Center for Education Policy Research.
“Our district is looking to better understand root causes for chronic absenteeism,” said Lauren French, superintendent of the Gouverneur Central School District. “We want to address the issues in ways that are appropriate to our district, community specific, based on our needs and resources we are able to offer.”
A goal of the program, currently active in New York and Ohio, is to help districts better understand challenges with rural education and identify, then implement, solutions that will work for students, families and schools.
“We are so spread out in this community. I’m excited we have other schools in our region that will be participating ... We can share information and best practices,” Ms. French said. “I went to Harvard and met with the researchers and other administrators this past weekend. We talked about inclusion, absenteeism and other issues we may not regularly address like homeless children or those who speak different languages.”
Ms. French noted the ability to identify trends with specific students — starting in their early years of public education — and how the district can document these trends then create solutions for upcoming years of education.
The research program was awarded $9,994,246 by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education.
“The mission of the Sandy Creek Central School District is to provide all students the knowledge and skills necessary to be self-directed, life-long learners by providing the highest quality education in partnership with parents, staff and community. Consistent student attendance is a key part of this undertaking,” said Kyle Faulkner, superintendent of the Sandy Creek Central School District. “One of our primary goals this year is to support and promote consistent attendance through targeted school and community-wide interventions as part of our work with the National Center for Rural Education Research Networks (NCRERN). We look forward to working with our rural districts as part of this initiative and gaining evidence-based practices that will best support our students.”
NCRERN will produce tools for identifying students most at risk for absenteeism and being unprepared for college as well as change management resources designed to guide rural schools in addressing chronic absenteeism, college readiness, and college enrollment.
Throughout the five years, the Center’s member districts will collaborate on shared challenges, learning from each other to guide future work on school improvement.
“The network brings together our expertise in strategic management and analytics and our partners’ expertise in supporting rural students,” said Bi Vuong, Proving Ground director and NCRERN interim director. “We are excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with districts committed to learning with us and sharing their expertise with each other.”
Applicants were chosen based on alignment between the district’s strategic goals and the work of the Center, capacity to utilize data for decision making, commitment to continuous improvement practices and geographic distribution. Other participating districts include:
Andover Central School District; Berne-Knox-Westerlo Central School District; Broadalbin-Perth Central School District; Canastota Central School District; Cato-Meridian Central School District; Crown Point Central School; Fallsburg Central School District; Fredonia Central School District; Gowanda Central School District; Greenville Central School District; Hammondsport Central School; Harpursville Central School District; LaFayette Central School District; Lyndonville Central School District; Monticello Central School District; Randolph Central School District; Salmon River Central School District; Sharon Springs Central School District; Sherman Central School District; Susquehanna Valley Central School District; Taconic Hills Central School District; Unadilla Valley Central School District; Webutuck Central School District; Wells Central School District; and Windsor Central School District.
“The districts selected to be part of the National Center for Rural Education Research Network deserve congratulations,” said Capital Region BOCES District Superintendent Anita Murphy. “Their selection represents a uniquely valuable opportunity for them to bring the power of evidence and the Proving Ground improvement model to bear on some of the most pressing issues facing rural districts including chronic absenteeism and college readiness and enrollment. I look forward to learning alongside our districts as they work to improve student outcomes together.”