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Making a Positive Impact in Rural Places: Change Agency in the Context of School-University-Community Collaboration in Education

reviewed by Maria de Lourdes Viloria - February 08, 2019

coverTitle: Making a Positive Impact in Rural Places: Change Agency in the Context of School-University-Community Collaboration in Education
Author(s): R. Martin Reardon & Jack Leonard (Eds.)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1641132213, Pages: 346, Year: 2018
Search for book at Amazon.com

This comprehensive collection of chapters details the research-based practices and on-the-ground experiences of scholars in a variety of rural school-university-community collaborations. A definite must-read for both novice and experienced academics interested in beginning, continuing, or revitalizing school-university-community collaborations in rural places, the books 13 chapters span interconnected topics and are organized into the following sections: Targeting Instructional Leadership, Opportunities for Underserved, Targeting Wicked Problems, and International Perspectives.

Part One, Targeting Instructional Leadership, is composed of Chapters One and Two. Chapter One highlights the research-practice partnership between East Carolina University and the Panasonic Foundation as well as the creation of FORCE (Focusing on Rural Challenges in Education). Chapter Two relates the instructional rounds process, which is defined as the real work of classroom instruction observations by teachers and school leaders dedicated to solving the problems of practice in a collaborative and non-judgmental environment. Together, Chapters One and Two unpack the importance of creating and sustaining collaborative campus decision-making in rural places where campus personnel are often spread thin with multiple roles and responsibilities. Compared to their urban counterparts, rural school principals face unique situations because they play multiple roles and cannot delegate the tasks of instructional leadership and teacher development; most of the time they are the sole instructional leader in the school. These chapters point out that the role of the school principal is gradually changing to be more of a facilitator and capacity builder than a task manager. Furthermore, Chapters One and Two highlight the importance of cultivating relationships with rural schools, emphasizing that collaboration does not happen overnight, nor does it happen in a vacuum. It happens when there is a common goal, trust, and persistent appreciation for what everyone brings to the table (p. 128).

Part Two, Opportunities for Underserved, consists of Chapters Three through Six. Chapter Three examines the literature related to recruitment and retention of teachers of color in rural and urban contexts. Findings from this study will contribute to the literature by expanding research on the recruitment and retention of teachers of color in rural and suburban schools and communities (p. 73). As Chapter Four zeroes in on the educational experiences of Black African immigrants in rural places, it highlights the fact that little research exists on the experiences of youth in terms of the intersection of race, immigration, and rurality. This study is grounded in critical pedagogy, engaging the readers with an assets-based theoretical framework that both acknowledges local knowledge and includes it in the curriculum. Chapter Five presents Kent State University-Columbianas Rural Scholars Program, which has been designed to deter youth out-migration from rural places by providing college knowledge, mentoring, and financial assistance via meaningful relationships with first-generation college students in rural places. The work done by the Rural Scholars Program needs to be shared with all scholars interested in rural education research, especially during these times in which life in the rural United States is changing and being reexamined.

Chapter Six is probably the most interesting chapter for novice scholars who are thinking of preparing and submitting a U.S. Department of Education grant proposal. Since most regional universities do not have a grants department, the manner in which this chapter details the steps for building a grant proposal will be useful for junior faculty. Jointly, Chapters Three through Six also critically examine the historical and systemic overrepresentation of students of color in socially, economically, and educationally challenged rural places.

Part Three, Targeting Wicked Problems, consists of Chapters Seven through Nine. Collectively, these three chapters focus on the mental health issues prevalent in remote rural places. Chapter Seven describes an innovative process for handling problems such as child poverty, abuse and neglect, or substance abuse through a community-led initiative known as Rethinking Education in Rural Spaces. Chapter Eight provides an overview of FREE (family, resiliency, education, and empowerment), a culturally responsive, trauma-informed approach to school-university-community collaborations that responds to the mental health needs of rural students. Finally, Chapter Nine discusses the need to implement school-university-community collaborations that are sensitive to cultural norms in rural settings.

Part Four, International Perspectives, is comprised of Chapters Ten through Thirteen. Grounded in relational-cultural theory, Chapter Ten examines the lessons learned from the combined efforts of university and community partners working to improve educational outcomes in rural parts of the Southwestern U.S. and South Australia by honoring the strengths and aspirations of local communities. In particular, community efforts included recruiting educators, engaging with elders, recharging veteran educators, building capacity with intensive residencies, and reclaiming rurality for hopeful futures. Chapter Eleven examines the rural-urban dichotomy and educational gap in China. It discusses, for example, the Chinese governments Head Eagle Program (HEP) in which urban schools mentor a partner rural school via teacher professional development and classroom observation.

Chapter Twelve presents a researchers experiences with entrepreneurial women from an impoverished rural community in South Africa. Finally, Chapter Thirteen discusses science-based teacher preparation and teaching in Gippsland, Australia. The authors examine the relationships among participants in a university-school partnership that aimed to improve teacher education via teacher collegiality, collaboration, and the disruption of conventional teacher education practices.

Overall, Meardon and Leonard present a collection that examines the true work and challenges that education scholars experience conducting research in isolated rural places. As a final comment, the manner in which Meardon and Leonard inclusively and comprehensively lay out the work of 38 contributors whose academic backgrounds vary widely indicates a deliberate effort to highlight and bring together the many complexities, challenges, and sensibilities found in rural places.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: February 08, 2019
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22666, Date Accessed: 2/13/2022 12:36:53 PM

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