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U.S. Sponsors First Meeting on Rural Concerns

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Washington--One hundred and twenty-five rural educators from 35 states gathered here last week to discuss ways to promote "excellence" in their schools.

Their seminar, devoted to the subject of "Ensuring Excellence in Edu-cation for Rural America," was sponsored by the Department of Education. It marked the first time the government convened a meeting on the concerns of rural educators.

In panel discussions and speeches, participants heard from colleagues, federal and state officials, and researchers about: the experience of teaching in rural schools in states from Maine to Colorado; staff development; the problems of special-education programs in rural areas; and the demographics of schools.

Other speakers discussed ways to improve the quality of education through cooperation between public and private schools and through partnerships with businesses.

'System Will Fail'

In a keynote address, Anne Campbell, commissioner of education in Nebraska, said that "if rural schools are left out of our planning for excellence in education, the whole system will fail."

Jerry G. Horn, a dean in the college of education at Kansas State University, addressed the problems of recruiting and retaining staff in rural schools. It is common, Mr. Horn said, to find a rural faculty made up almost entirely of teachers who have either less than three years' or more than 10 years' experience. The high turnover rate among young rural teachers stems, he noted, from several factors: professional and social isolation, inadequate preparation, and limited opportunities for advancement.

It is clear, Mr. Horn argued, that better preparation for the realities of teaching in rural areas should be provided in education schools.

Conference participants are developing recommendations for possible use by the National Commission on Excellence.--A.H.

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