Read this: Duncan details bipartisan rural schools reform plan

A plan to make some changes in the NCLB-imposed requirements that have large negative effects on rural schools has won some important support from both sides of the political aisle. However, the proposed changes leave some other major NCLB problems for rural schools unaddressed, such as how performance targets are defined. This excerpt is from the report in Agri-Pulse:

The proposed new flexibility specifically aims at helping the 80% of the U.S. which has just 20% of the school population — rural America. According to the administration’s Blueprint, under the new approach, we will provide districts flexibility for designing interventions in schools that are not meeting their performance targets, giving rural communities the ability to decide what works best for their schools. The proposal eliminates federal mandates to provide supplemental educational services and public school choice  interventions that are difficult for many rural communities to provide.

Duncan explained the plan also calls for recognizing that teachers in rural schools often may teach multiple subjects. He said under the new proposal, rather than being penalized for not being “highly qualified” in a specific subject, these multi-talented teachers would be praised for being highly effective overall. He said another rural-focused proposal is to overcome the trend of teachers serving a short time in rural areas before moving away by training rural residents to become teachers in their own communities.

If these types of concessions can be made for some schools, then the Department of Education should be able to broker some relief for other onerous sections of NCLB such as the ignoring of IDEA provisions when testing special needs students — or placing a moratorium on the extensive testing of students until more appropriate assessments are at least piloted.

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