MANHATTAN, Kan. — The Rural Education Center in the Kansas State University College of Education has entered a strategic partnership with the Rural Schools Collaborative to strengthen and advance every aspect of rural education in Kansas.
The Rural Schools Collaborative, housed at Monmouth College, is a national grassroots network of rural schools, higher-education institutions and organizations focused on rural teachers and rural education.
Lori Goodson, Rural Education Center assistant director and assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, believes important synergies will develop from this initiative.
“We see the center’s involvement with the Rural Schools Collaborative network as a significant opportunity to unite with other stakeholders and join the growing chorus of educators and researchers raising their voices for the good of all rural communities,” Goodson said. “We are excited about this partnership because Kansas communities will both benefit from and contribute to the overarching effort.”
Goodson is joined by Spencer Clark, Rural Education Center director; Diane Beets, the center’s program coordinator; and Kevin Colle, center program/project coordinator, to diligently challenge and ultimately change stereotypes surrounding rural schools.
“We need to rewrite the rural narrative to help the broader society move away from a deficit perspective regarding rural schools and shift to an assets-based perspective,” Goodson said. “Rural schools and communities are so unique and distinct — and there are tremendous educational assets embedded within that uniqueness — that we need to leverage and make others aware of authentic stories of rural life.”
The Rural Education Center supports all the rural school districts throughout the state and works especially closely with districts in the southeast, southwest and northwest regions of Kansas to:
• Generate grants and other projects to help rural school districts.
• Create a homegrown workforce for schools.
• Advance rural student leadership in the College of Education.
• Help generate place-based curriculum that makes use of the unique learning available to rural schools.
Over the past two years, the center has instituted three key programs to support rural education and rural teachers throughout Kansas, including:
- LEAPES, an acronym for Learning Exploration and Application for Prospective Engineering Students, is a collaborative project funded by a $2.7 million grant from the Department of Defense that promotes STEM education among seventh to 12th grade students throughout the state.
- ED ASTRA, an acronym for Education Advocates Supporting Teachers in Rural Areas, launched in fall 2021. It is designed to emphasize future rural educators by creating a community of rural-focused future teachers.
- RPDS, or Rural Professional Development School, Network was launched in 2020 and expanded in 2021. The RPDS network is a critical component of the center’s efforts to create opportunities for all Kansas rural districts. It brings together representatives from school districts across the state to help address the most pressing needs of rural schools by providing a discussion space and forum to share best practices, explore grant opportunities, and highlight accomplishments.
More information about the Rural Education Center is available on its website and through the center’s e-newsletter, Rural Crossroads.
— Lori Goodson, Kansas State University