This post is a guest contribution to the SCORE Sheet from Dr. Gina Kunz and Dr. Susan Sheridan as part of our series on rural education leading up to the Southeast Regional Rural Education Summit on July 19-20.

Despite the fact that more than 25 percent of U.S. schools are rural, much of the existing educational research has focused primarily on schools in urban and suburban schools. As researchers and educators strive to help students keep pace in a rapidly evolving world, it is also important that they determine what supports students in rural communities need to thrive.

At the National Center for Research on Rural Education (R²Ed)—housed within the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools (CYFS) at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln—we are dedicated to conducting rigorous research that helps answer the tough questions of what works, for whom, and under what conditions. One particular focus is on investigating various approaches to supporting teachers as they teach reading and science in rural classrooms, believing that these core subjects profoundly influence students’ future academic and professional success.

Though rural schools often develop a certain strength and sense of community, they also face the substantial challenges of distance, staff turnover, and limited access to valuable resources. With this in mind, we are also excited about learning how distance technology can help schools deliver the high-quality education that students in rural communities deserve. What we learn should help shed light on how to maximize resources and accomplish “more with less”—a common charge for rural schools.

R²Ed is also committed to empowering the parents and teachers who—separately and together—serve as constant and critical foundations for students’ education amid the many changes they experience throughout their formative years. When these two invaluable support systems form meaningful partnerships, there is no limit to what their children and students can accomplish. Because of this, we investigate the best strategies for forging meaningful partnerships to support students whose behavioral issues interfere with learning in the classroom. These connections also help level the educational playing field, giving students, teachers, and parents in rural communities every opportunity available to their non-rural counterparts.

In these and other ways, R2Ed is capitalizing on the unique opportunities provided by the rural context to advance the scientific foundation for educational programs that enhance student achievement in rural communities. With that said, we are excited about partnering with SCORE to learn from and contribute to the valuable educational reform information being shared at next week’s Southeast Regional Rural Education Summit. I am confident that this Summit will inspire its participants in striving toward a common goal: enhancing the quality of education for students in rural schools and empowering the very systems that serve as their foundation.

Dr. Gina Kunz is a Research Assistant Professor and Acting Director of Outreach and Coordination at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools (CYFS). She is also currently a Co-Principal Investigator and Director of Rural Outreach and Coordination for the National Center for Research on Rural Education (R2Ed) housed within CYFS. Particular areas of expertise include assessment and treatment of academic and behavioral difficulties of children and youth with various challenges, particularly children and youth with attention deficits such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and students with learning disabilities; and professional development for K-12 science teachers in a variety of contexts, including urban/suburban and rural.

Dr. Susan Sheridan graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1989 with a doctorate in Educational (School) Psychology. Currently, she is a George Holmes University Professor and Willa Cather Emeritus Professor of Educational (School) Psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, having joined the faculty in 1998. She is the Director of the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools and Director of the National Center for Research on Rural Education. She is the past Editor of School Psychology Review, the research journal of the National Association of School Psychologists, and Past-President of the Society for the Study of School Psychology (SSSP).