The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) today launched the Rural Education Network, a group of education leaders from throughout Tennessee and the nation that is committed to improving public education in rural communities. The network will help identify, spread, and share best practices in rural education, foster learning among network members, and provide SCORE with policy direction on rural education issues.

“We can’t ignore students in our rural communities,” said Jamie Woodson, President and CEO of SCORE. “In Tennessee, four out of 10 students attend school in a rural district, a number that is growing faster than in any other state. These communities face unique educational challenges, from lower college-going and completion rates to higher poverty rates and household mobility. The Rural Network will be critical in driving student success in rural schools.”

The announcement of the Network follows the Southeast Regional Rural Education Summit, held in Nashville in July 2011, which attracted more than 500 educators, policymakers, and community leaders from 19 states. After the Summit, SCORE released the report Transforming the Rural South, which identified 34 specific recommendations to improve rural education. An important priority for the Network will be sharing their work that is aligned with this report to a broad group of rural educators.

“Rural communities often have fewer opportunities to share what’s working and collaborate to solve problems,” said Jason Vance, Superintendent of Loudon County Schools (TN) and a network member. “The members of this network are doing innovative work to improve student achievement despite the challenges they face and we will be using this opportunity to learn from one another.”

Founding network members include:

  • Autumn Tooms Cypres, Director, Center for Educational Leadership, University of Tennessee Knoxville
  • Bobbi Lussier, Assistant Commissioner for Special Education and Special Populations, Tennessee Department of Education
  • David Cook, Director of Innovation and Partner Engagement, Kentucky Department of Education
  • Dr. Candice McQueen, Dean, College of Education, Lipscomb University
  • Dr. Gina Kunz, National Center for Research on Rural Education
  • Dr. Lionel “Bo” Beaulieu, Director, Southern Rural Development Center
  • Dr. Pat Ashley, Executive Director, District and School Transformation, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
  • Dreama Gentry, Director, Externally Sponsored Programs, Berea College
  • Jan McKeel, Executive Director, South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance
  • Jason Vance, Director of Schools, Loudon County Schools (2011 SCORE Prize finalist)
  • Joshua Mason, Principal, Jo Byrns High School (2011 SCORE Prize finalist)
  • Linda Irwin, Director of School Partnerships, Niswonger Foundation
  • Lisa Hankins, REDI Director, Southwest Tennessee Development District
  • Malissa Johnson, Principal, Charlotte Elementary (2011 SCORE Prize finalist)
  • Mark Willoughby, Director of Schools, DeKalb County Schools
  • Robert Mahaffey, Director of Communications and Marketing, Rural School and Community Trust