The California Rural Ed Network, which started in 2017, launched a new online resource bank in October to provide rural school districts with research-based information and professional development articles hand-picked by experts as being of interest and benefit to rural educators, The 74 reports.
The hub also provides access to user-generated content so educators can share and discuss practices working in other rural areas statewide, receive support from peers, share best practices, and exchange stories about great things happening in rural areas. These resources are freely available to site visitors.
The California Rural Ed Network is also exploring ways to elevate student voices from rural schools and to form stronger partnerships with state and national organizations in order to bring attention to “inequalities that disproportionately affect rural education systems.”
Students and teachers in rural areas face different challenges than their urban peers. They often tend to live in a more impoverished area without access to resources are easier to align to poor students in cities. Without mass transit and often even without other transportation options such as taxis or Uber, rural families often have less access to school choice options. Access to reliable broadband Internet and to advanced course options also continues to be a concern in many areas, and grant options often pass these schools by because they have fewer students. Additionally, these schools often have a hard time attracting and retaining high-quality school leaders and teachers.
Pooling resources to address these issues is a smart way to connect and inform rural educators. Though the California Rural Ed Network’s new online resource bank is primarily intended for educators in that state, its resources can be freely accessed by educators nationwide, as well.
Other organizations also offer resources for rural educators. The U.S Department of Education has its own Rural Education Resource Center that provides information about grants and other programs of benefit to rural schools, and the Rural Schools Collaborative offers additional resources to educators across state lines. And, in another state-level example, the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative has worked to expand access in Appalachia on resources ranging from professional development opportunities to technological tools.
There are benefits to having a state-specific organization that serves rural educators and allows them to connect over issues relevant to their state. However, rural schools without a state organization can still benefit from many of the resources these other organizations have to offer.