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ERIC Number: ED594785
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2019
Pages: 31
Abstractor: As Provided
Getting Better Together: Innovations for Rural Learners and Communities
Harmon, Hobart L.; Butler, Thomas A.
Online Submission
Pennsylvania Intermediate Unit 8 (IU8) seeks to scale innovations that are evolving as local solutions to educational challenges in rural school districts. Consistent with its mission of creating customized solutions, IU8 seeks to make the innovations better, meaning more learner centered and community focused. IU8 is evolving the Getting Better Together (GBT) initiative that includes a process called Catalyzing Action for Responsive Education (CARE). Unfortunately, with its singular focus on "adequate yearly progress" in math and reading test achievement the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law devalued the role of public education in many rural communities. School and classroom doors became closed to key partners that traditionally reinforced the symbiotic relationship of mutual benefits shared between a rural school and its community. The local school lost one of its most important purposes--that of a vibrant community hub. NCLB mandates left little time for community organizations or volunteers to engage with students during the regular school day, unless their program or service reinforced state math and or reading learning standards. Reinforced by test-score accountability pressures, administrators and teachers often perceived time required for project-based activities in the community displaced classroom time needed for student academic success. In the NCLB era, fixing the problem of inadequate test results failed to meet the economic, social, and civic development needs of many rural communities. Now the times demand change in education again, but with much more understanding and attention to the needs of rural communities in America. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that replaced NCLB in 2015 mentions the word rural 54 times. New opportunities exist for organizations like IUs that have supporting the education of rural students as the cornerstone of their missions. Following discussion of the new learning centered ecosystem and community focused learning in a rural context, the authors describe the four steps of the CARE process developed by IU8 in the GTB initiative: (1) discovery, (2) capacity building, (3) intentional place-based innovation design, and (4) success assurance. Results in the discovery step are presented as examples of innovations underway in local districts to address place-based educational challenges. The design process is intentional in leveraging existing strengths of the rural schools of the region, rather than perceiving place as in need of a model to fix education in the rural school setting. Facilitated by IU8 as a mostly virtual network, seven districts who have committed to making their innovations better in the GBT initiative are focused on a common educational challenge. The end result is multiple ways to address the challenge in rural contexts, rather than a "one best way" solution. The article includes 44 references. Three blogs published by the Association of Educational Service Agencies (AESA) as a supplement to the article are available on the AESA website as follows: Finding Innovations in Rural School Districts: 3 "Es" the ESA Can Do (, Moving Beyond NCLB: Creating Education Imagineers (, and Reform Processes that Consider the Local, Rural Context ( [This article was published in: "Perspectives: A Journal of Research and Practice of Educational Service Agencies" v25 n1 2019.]
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Pennsylvania