Is Rural Over? Plus Measurement During Covid, Loan Debate, More!

Also some education implications in this Edsall analysis of the forces causing events like last week’s insurrection.

Turning to other things, how refreshing – actual policy debates. Preview of the legal wrangling about loan forgiveness. Outside of modest forgiveness for low balance borrowers who did not complete, which seems like a good idea, isn’t the political risk a threat worth paying more attention to? There are many ways to mitigate that (other initiatives, the amount of forgiveness, income limits), of course, but it’s hard to miss the gap between denizens of the policy, advocacy, and political worlds and average Americans on perceptions and participation in higher education.

Outside of immediate decisions – for instance a dramatically failing public charter school or a district school in turmoil – I’d argue we should go for a full stop on accountability until we’re on the other side of Covid and instead focus on:

a) Delivering instruction to all students – in particular the millions who are missing and the millions more getting far less than they need.

b) Some kind of assessment in the spring to get a handle on where students are to inform teachers and parents as well as broader interventions. The pressure to just skip a second year is growing.

That said, there are varying takes from informed folks on ways we can still think about measurement – here’s one from Fordham on growth measures during disrupted assessment.

NASBE focuses on rural education in the new issue of Standard. Actual conversations I’ve had about rural with influential people in our sector include:

  • Why does Bellwether work on rural education, that’s a white issue?
  • Why does Bellwether work on rural education, everyone knows rural is over?

On the first point, assuming rural is a white issue reflects a lack of understanding of the demographics of the country and of many states – particularly in the American South. “Black belt” is not about martial arts or management in this context. And most Native American students attend rural schools run by rural school districts (rather than BIE schools or suburban and urban schools) There are also substantial ELL components as well as special education and other equity issues.

On the second point, the idea that rural is “over” will come as news to millions of Americans and thousands of American school districts. It also ignores substantial American economic activity. But even granting for argument’s sake the idea that cities will “win” and rural populations will substantially decline, it’s not going to happen any time soon. Millions of American students will still continue to need and deserve a high quality education in a rural setting for the foreseeable future.

Seems weird to me for anyone who purports to want to build a more inclusive America to not be including rural issues along with the broader basket of ways our economy (and education system) are not inclusive for all Americans.