Connecting and Collaborating for Rural Prosperity

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U.S. Secretary of Education John King, Jr. speaks at the 2016 Rural Education National Forum, October 13-15 in Columbus, Ohio.

On October 13-15, 2016, Battelle for Kids and the National Rural Education Association (NREA) hosted the Rural Education National Forum and 108th NREA Convention and Research Symposium, bringing together more than 500 rural education leaders from 40 states to learn, collaborate, and share ideas for moving rural education forward. 

“This type of event is great, because we can share ideas, we can share our understandings, and we can learn a lot about what it takes to create the right conditions—conditions that provide our rural students and educators with the support and assistance they need to succeed,” shared Paolo DeMaria, Ohio’s Superintendent of Public Instruction.   

RuralForum16CollageThe Forum, which was held in partnership with the Kentucky and Ohio Departments of Education, featured keynotes from U.S. Secretary of Education, John B. King Jr.; Virginia Sautner, the National Rural Teacher of the Year; Robert Putnam, author of Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis; Andrew McCrea, a farmer, author, and nationally-syndicated radio broadcaster; and Cindy Moss, director of global STEM initiatives for Discovery Education. Rural education leaders from across the country also led breakout sessions focused on how collaboration, innovation, investment, leadership, and creating pathways to prepare students for success in college and career are helping to increase educational opportunities and economic prosperity in rural communities.  

“Now more than ever, rural communities have a vital need to produce leaders who can guide and sustain schools, towns, and regions to long-term success,” said Andrew McCrea. 

In 2015, Battelle for Kids partnered with Education Northwest to study 17 of the most promising rural education collaboratives across the country to learn how they are advancing equity, economic growth, and educational change for rural students and communities. Our research and lessons learned were detailed in the white paper, Generating Opportunity and Prosperity: The Promise of Rural Education Collaboratives. Building off this momentum, we convened leaders from these collaboratives at the 2016 Rural Forum to highlight connections and areas for collaboration. Collaboratives shared their successes, challenges, and aspirations, which has helped lay the groundwork for exploring the possibility of forming a national Rural Collaborative Network.

Battelle for Kids also invited a group of new and emerging rural leaders to the Forum from 13 states and from multiple sectors—practitioners, economic development, and higher education, among others—for a Young Rural Leaders breakfast. The goal is to connect this next generation of rural leaders to find ways to move the dial in rural areas.

“Meetings like [the Rural Forum] really create a national conversation about best practices in rural education, and give people opportunities to collaborate that they might not otherwise have,” said Secretary King, who made his second appearance at the event.

Want to learn more? Recap the conversation on social media at #RuralEdForum and #NREA108th. 

We also encourage you to check out more blogs, publications, and case studies focused on rural success in our Learning Hub.