Proving Ground to expand capacity to rural education

February 6, 2019

The Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard University has been awarded a $10 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education to launch the National Center for Rural Education Research Networks (NCRERN)  to expand Proving Ground’s model of evidence-based decision making and continuous improvement. With rural districts, Proving Ground will address the challenges of chronic absenteeism, college readiness, and college enrollment.

“The strength of Proving Ground’s approach lies in bringing together our expertise in strategic management and analytics with our partners’ expertise in district operations and school practices to improve student outcomes,” says Bi Vuong, Proving Ground director and NCRERN interim director. “With NCRERN we have the opportunity to put that powerful combination in service of rural educators and students.”

Through NCRERN, Proving Ground will expand its network to include 60 rural school districts in New York and Ohio. Both states are home to sizeable rural populations. Proving Ground will work with the network to develop, pilot, and test interventions addressing chronic absenteeism, college readiness, and college enrollment. NCRERN will also collaborate with additional states and rural districts to implement and evaluate interventions that were successful in phase one.

“We are excited that rural schools in Ohio will have this fantastic opportunity to help build their capacity to use data analysis to drive continuous improvement,” says Paolo Demaria, State Superintendent of Public Instruction in Ohio. “Our experience with CEPR’s Proving Ground has shown that student outcomes can be positively impacted when this model is applied. We are honored to have the opportunity to expand this work through NCRERN.”

“New York’s landscape is as diverse as its population and with nearly 400,000 students served in our rural and remote school districts, it’s paramount that we do everything we can to leverage our technology and data collection abilities to gain insight into the unique challenges that exist in these districts,” New York State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia says. “We are delighted to collaborate with The National Center for Rural Education Research Networks and the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University to learn how we can best assist the rural schools in New York State and ensure their students are receiving a quality education and an opportunity to succeed.”

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. The Center will also host two national conferences which will bring together districts from across Proving Ground’s networks to share what they’ve learned and discuss challenges that remain.

NCRERN’s advisory board leverages expertise in rural education and includes 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

Contact: Jackie Kerstetter: 814-440-2299,

School districts in New York and Ohio who are interested in participating in NCRERN will be able to apply at a later date. See for more information. To learn more about Proving Ground, contact Proving Ground Director Bi Vuong at