Harvard rural education center announces district partners in New York and Ohio

July 22, 2019


The National Center for Rural Education Research Networks will collaborate with 50 rural districts to address chronic absenteeism, college readiness, and more


Cambridge, MA (July 22, 2019)—Today the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard University announces the 50 rural school districts in New York and Ohio that will be joining the National Center for Rural Education Research Networks (NCRERN). The Center was awarded a $10 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education to apply CEPR’s Proving Ground model of evidence-based improvement to address the challenges of chronic absenteeism, college readiness, and college enrollment.

“Students who are chronically absent are at-risk for falling behind and ultimately dropping out,” says Jeremy Belfield, Superintendent of Schools at LaFayette Central School District in New York. “As part of our work with the National Center for Rural Education Research Networks, our district hopes not only to learn from other rural districts but also to share with them ideas for promising evidenced-based practices that will help students feel welcome, successful, and supported.”

NCRERN will facilitate collaboration among the 50 rural districts to develop, implement, and evaluate interventions addressing chronic absenteeism, college readiness, and college enrollment. In its second phase, the Center will work with additional states to test whether the interventions that worked in New York and Ohio benefit rural schools elsewhere. 

“We have been addressing chronic absenteeism through team-based plans for individual students,” says Terri Freeman, Assistant Superintendent at Northwest Local Schools in Ohio. “Partnering with other rural districts, while having the support of the National Center for Rural Education Research Networks, will give us access to more context-relevant evidence with which we can design and pilot new interventions.”

The New York State Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Education worked closely with CEPR to bring this opportunity to districts across their states. Applicants were chosen based on alignment between the district’s strategic goals and the work of the Center, capacity to utilize data for decision making, commitment to continuous improvement practices, and geographic distribution.  

The following districts will join the NCRERN network for continuous improvement:

New York—Andover Central School District; Berne-Knox-Westerlo Central School District; Broadalbin-Perth Central School District; Canastota Central School District; Cato-Meridian Central School District; Crown Point Central School; Fallsburg Central School District; Fredonia Central School District; Gouverneur Central School District; Gowanda Central School District; Greenville Central School District; Hammondsport Central School District; Harpursville Central School District; LaFayette Central School District; Lyndonville Central School District; Mexico Central School District; Monticello Central School District; Pulaski Academy & Central School District; Randolph Central School District; Salmon River Central School District; Sandy Creek Central School District; Sharon Springs Central School District; Sherman Central School District; Susquehanna Valley Central School District; Taconic Hills Central School District; Thousand Islands Central School District; Unadilla Valley Central School District; Webutuck Central School District; Wells Central School District; Windsor Central School District

Ohio—Ansonia Local Schools; Bethel-Tate Local Schools; Black River Local Schools; Caldwell Exempted Village Schools; Cardington-Lincoln Local Schools; Clear Fork Valley Local Schools; Clermont Northeastern Schools; Crooksville Exempted Village Schools; East Guernsey Local Schools; Edison Local Schools; Franklin Local Schools; Goshen Local Schools; Licking Heights Local Schools; New London Local Schools; North Union Local Schools; Northwest Local Schools; Ridgewood Local Schools; Scioto Valley Local Schools; Western Local School District

Since 2006, CEPR has worked with urban and suburban school districts across the country, pursuing joint research projects and training analysts to use data for action. Through its Proving Ground project, CEPR has helped a set of urban districts and charter schools to diagnose challenges and to systematically identify, pilot, and test solutions. Now, CEPR will adapt what it has learned to launch a model of evidence-based improvement for rural schools. 

“The network brings together our expertise in strategic management and analytics and our partners’ expertise in supporting rural students. We are excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with districts committed to learning with us and sharing their expertise with each other,” says Bi Vuong, Proving Ground director and NCRERN interim director.

NCRERN will produce tools for identifying students most at risk for absenteeism and being unprepared for college as well as change management resources designed to guide rural schools in addressing chronic absenteeism, college readiness, and college enrollment.  Additionally, during this five year period, the Center will host several national conferences, which will be open to the public, and provide updates on the interventions that were implemented as a part of the network.

The Center’s advisory board comprises experts in rural education, including Dr. Karen Eppley, Editor, Journal of Research in Rural Education, Penn State; Robert Mahaffey, Executive Director, Rural School and Community Trust; Dr. Allan Pratt, Executive Director, National Rural Education Association; and, Dr. Joan Wade, Executive Director, Association of Educational Service Agencies.

Funding: The Institute of Education Sciences is awarding $10 million to support the National Center for Rural Education Research Networks (NCRERN); it is being cost shared by IES (91%) and the Center of Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard University and its partners, New York and Ohio (9%).

About NCRERN leadership: Thomas J. Kane is an economist and Walter H. Gale Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, as well as faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR). Douglas O. Staiger is the John French Professor in Economics at Dartmouth College. Christopher Avery is the Roy E. Larsen Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Bi Vuong, Proving Ground Director (CEPR), will act as interim director of the Center.

About the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University: The Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University seeks to transform education through quality research and evidence. CEPR and its partners believe all students will learn and thrive when education leaders make decisions using facts and findings, rather than untested assumptions. Learn more at cepr.harvard.edu.

About Proving Ground: Proving Ground, a CEPR initiative, works to make evidence-gathering and evidence-use an intuitive part of how education agencies conduct their daily work. Proving Ground utilizes a continuous improvement framework to help agencies rapidly identify and test solutions to specific challenges. Learn more at provingground.cepr.harvard.edu

About the Institute of Education Sciences: The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is the independent and non-partisan statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education. Their mission is to provide scientific evidence on which to ground education practice and policy and to share this information in formats that are useful and accessible to educators, parents, policymakers, researchers, and the public. Learn more at https://ies.ed.gov.

Contact: Jackie Kerstetter: 814-440-2299, jacqueline_kerstetter@gse.harvard.edu