November 19, 2013 at 13:29 PM EST
Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho Launched
National group to lead research and thinking on rural education innovation

BOISE, Idaho, Nov. 19, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- One in three American schools are rural, but little has been done to advance the understanding of how to help these schools serve their diverse populations. To help answer these questions, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation announced today the launch of the Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho (ROCI) to advance education reform in rural and frontier America.

To date, the national education reform movement has focused primarily on the needs of low-income urban students. However, one in four American students attend school in a rural community and many students in rural schools are low-income. The ROCI will identify best practices nationally, support efforts to incubate innovations, and publish original research and findings on national trends in rural education.

"Schools in rural areas are often faced with unique challenges and opportunities. However, the amount of research on solutions that work for small and low-income rural schools is thin," said John White, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education. "Our nation needs experts in the field of education research to identify best practices and share timely and relevant models in ways that can be replicated as soon as possible. This important work may be conducted in rural Idaho but it has the potential to identify solutions for common challenges throughout rural America."

The ROCI will include a task force chaired by Dr. Paul Hill, research professor at the University of Washington and founder of the Center on Reinventing Public Education. The task force will convene semi-annually in Boise and conduct research on a wide range of issues affecting rural education. Bellwether Education Partners, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping education organizations in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors become more effective in their work, will also produce research on a select number of issues in rural education.

"Rural schools educate almost as many children as big city schools, but they haven't received anything like the same level of attention from policymakers, the public, or educational innovators," said Dr. Hill. "I hope ROCI puts rural education on the map."

ROCI members include:

  • Paul T. Hill: Dr. Hill is a research professor at the University of Washington Bothell and founder of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, which studies alternative governance and finance systems for public K-12 education. His most recent books are Learning as We Go: Why School Choice is Worth the Wait and Strife and Progress: Portfolio Strategies for Managing Urban Schools. His book, Fixing Urban Schools, is a primer for city leaders and foundations on strategies for transforming failing public school systems. Hill was the 2007 recipient of the Thomas B. Fordham Prize for Distinguished Scholarship.
  • Bryan C. Hassel: Dr. Hassel is codirector of Public Impact. He is a recognized expert on education technology, charter schools and teacher and leader policy. Dr. Hassel received his Ph.D. in public policy from Harvard University and his master's degree in politics from Oxford University, which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. He is a senior research affiliate with the Center on Reinventing Public Education, and a nonresident senior fellow with Education Sector. Dr. Hassel is author of several studies on uses of education technology including A Better Blend: A Vision for Boosting Student Outcomes with Digital Learning; and Teachers In The Age Of Digital Instruction.
  • Edward Kissam: Mr. Kissam is an applied researcher who has worked on policy, program planning, and evaluation issues in adult education, community radio, and immigrant settlement in the rural U.S. for more than 30 years. He is the author of Working Poor: Farmworkers in the United States. From 2003-2007 he led a USAID-funded longitudinal survey of community-based accelerated learning for primary school students in 10 rural provinces in Afghanistan and provided technical assistance to the Ministry of Education. Mr. Kissam currently serves as a trustee of the Werner-Kohnstamm Family Fund which supports initiatives contributing to the well-being of immigrants in California and nationally.
  • Paul A. Lewin: Dr. Lewin is an assistant professor in the department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology at the University of Idaho. He does research in rural economic development and assists extension and communities across Idaho through programming and analysis in community economics. Before joining the University of Idaho, Dr. Lewin worked in community and economic development across Latin America, and subsequently as economist in both government and private sector positions in Europe and the U.S. His research program includes entrepreneurship, migration, community economic resilience, and dynamic changes of community and small regional economies. He is fluent in English and Spanish.
  • Daniel Player: Dr. Player is assistant professor at the University of Virginia and director of Partners for Leadership in Education. He was formerly a senior researcher at Mathematica Policy Research. An economist, Dr. Player focuses on the education workforce, particularly the links among policy, funding, performance incentives and the quality of teachers and principals. He has also studied the economics of rural areas and farmers' adoption of new methods.
  • Andrew J. Rotherham is a co-founder and partner at Bellwether Education, a national nonprofit organization working to support educational innovation and improve educational outcomes for low-income students. Rotherham leads Bellwether's thought leadership and policy analysis work. He is also the executive editor of the forthcoming Real Clear Education, part of the Real Clear Politics family of news and analysis websites, writes the blog Eduwonk.com, and is the co-publisher of "Education Insider" a federal policy analysis tool produced by Whiteboard Advisors. Rotherham is the author or co-author of more than 250 published articles, book chapters, papers, and op-eds about education policy and politics and is the author or editor of four books on educational policy.
  • Marguerite Roza: Dr. Roza is the director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University and senior research affiliate at the Center on Reinventing Public Education. Dr. Roza's research traces the effects of fiscal policies at the federal, state, and district levels for their implications on resources at school and classroom levels. She has led projects including the Finance and Productivity Initiative at CRPE and the Schools in Crisis Rapid Response Paper Series. More recently she served as Senior Economic Advisor to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Roza is author of Educational Economics: Where Do School Funds Go?
  • Terry Ryan recently left his position as vice president for Ohio Programs and Policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute to become the president of the Idaho Charter School Network. He began his career in education as a teacher in Poland and worked with the Polish Ministry of Education and the Foundation for Education for Democracy in the mid-1990s. He was awarded the Paterson International Fellowship from the University of Denver in 1994 and was a research director for the UK-based 21st Century Learning Initiative. Mr. Ryan was a 2008 New Schools Venture Fund/Aspen Institute Fellow and is a research fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from Eastern Illinois University and a master's degree in political economy from the University of Denver's Graduate School of International Studies.
  • Kai Schafft: Schafft is associate professor of Educational Leadership, Department of Education Policy Studies at Penn State. He directs the Center on Rural Education and Communities and serves as editor for the Journal of Research in Rural Education. Trained as a rural sociologist with strong interests in the relationship between social and spatial inequalities, his work broadly looks at the multiple associations between the well-being of rural schools and rural communities. He is the co-author, with David Brown, of Rural People and Communities in the Twenty-first Century: Resilience and Transformation and co-editor, with Alicia Jackson, of Rural Education for the Twenty-first Century: Identity, Place and Community in a Globalizing World.

The ROCI is funded by a grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, a private family foundation based in Boise.

"We believe rural schools can be a better place for innovation because of their close relationships with and support from the community, as well as their ability to mobilize and respond quickly to needs, but we want to know for sure," said Jamie MacMillan, executive director of the Albertson Foundation. "Our foundation's board believes Idaho can be a national leader -- a model in closing the achievement gap for students who might have disadvantaged backgrounds and circumstances."

The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation is committed to limitless learning for all Idahoans. Since 1997, the Foundation has invested more than $500 million to improve education in Idaho. For more information about the Foundation visit www.jkaf.org

SOURCE Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho

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