Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Does federal education policy leave rural schools behind?

As the federal government considers guidelines for investing over $4 billion in a new education grant program called Race to the Top, questions are already rising about the fairness of the plan.

Even though rules for RTTT won't be finalized until October (public comments were accepted up until last Friday), rural communities worry that guidelines might favor urban school systems. As Education Week assistant editor Michele McNeil reports here:
Rural school advocates say the federal priorities emerging under (Secretary
of Education Arne) Duncan—a former chief executive officer of the
408,000-student Chicago public school system—favor education improvement ideas
that are best suited to urban settings.

Critics point to RTTT's heavy emphasis on charter schools as evidence of an urban bias. Districts with few students would be hard put to justify establishing a charter school, and could be eliminated from consideration for the federal funds.

Others say that the Department of Education's requirement that school districts embrace merit pay for teachers might not have the desired effect in rural school districts.

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