College of Education's Rural Education Center creates network to serve rural schools
Monday, March 2, 2020
MANHATTAN — The Rural Education Center, housed in the Kansas State University College of Education, has recently established a Rural Professional Development School network to help address rural schools' most pressing needs, provide a forum to share best practices, explore grant opportunities and highlight accomplishments.
Eight districts have joined the initial effort to date and all are part of the Kansas State Department of Education's school redesign project: Ashland USD 220; Clay County USD 379; Dighton USD 482; Haviland USD 474; Lakin USD 215; Liberal USD 480; Pratt Skyline USD 438; and Twin Valley USD 240, which serves Bennington and Tescott.
Drawing on its award-winning Professional Development School model with school districts in the Manhattan area, the rural network provides a collaborative forum designed specifically for rural schools.
"Our faculty has taken the greatest strengths of our existing model, reimagined it for rural schools and attracted partnering districts with education leaders who have an uncompromising commitment to their communities and students," said Debbie Mercer, dean of the College of Education. "This is innovation at its finest."
Todd Goodson, professor and chair of the department of curriculum and instruction, believes it affirms K-State's mission.
"As a land-grant institution, our job is to reach as many Kansans as possible," Goodson said. "With the use of technology and a real-time understanding of the needs in rural schools, we can be more effective at enhancing learning opportunities for teachers and students in ways that are both practical and meaningful."
The seeds for the Rural Professional Development School network were sewn when representatives from the partnering rural districts met following the center's inaugural Rural Education Summit last summer on the K-State campus.
J. Spencer Clark, Rural Education Center director and associate professor of curriculum and instruction, said communication plays a key factor in the new network.
"The Rural Professional School Development network provides a two-way system to keep both the center and the districts informed about ways we can help each other meet the needs of our students," he said. "We're excited to have a strong group of districts in this partnership to help us identify issues and challenges and collectively create solutions tailormade for each district and community."
Kelly Arnberger, Dighton USD 482 superintendent and Dighton Elementary School principal, said he's looking to broaden educational opportunities and experiences for his students.
"Our work to transform learning for the students at Dighton USD 482 is catalyzed with our partnership with Kansas State University," Arnberger said. "At the end of the day, it is about options, and we look forward to providing more options for our students through our work with K-State."
Districts in the Rural Professional School Development network are already benefiting from the Rural Education Center's recent grant. Thanks to the Teaching Rural Students STEM through Tele-Presence national grant, robots will bring more learning opportunities to rural schools. The center received a $146,031 award to create a distance learning network to serve rural schools with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math.
Entering its fifth decade, the Rural Education Center was previously known as the Center for Rural Education and Small Schools. It is led by Clark and Lori Goodson, assistant director and an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction.
Approved by the Kansas Board of Regents in 1978, the center focuses on meeting the needs of rural schools in Kansas. It emphasizes advocacy for rural schools and their communities by pursuing grant opportunities and other sources of funding to support various rural educational projects. Clark and Goodson also plan to conduct research and coordinate various educational activities to support learning opportunities for rural students and teachers. The center is focused on supporting current curriculum initiatives and goals associated with the Kansas State Department of Education school redesign, STEAM education, place-based education, and civic engagement in rural schools.
For more information about Rural Professional School Development and other services of the center, email firstname.lastname@example.org.