Rural Education

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You don't have to live in a city to enjoy school-to-work opportunities, according to a new book, Finding Their Own Place: Youth in Three Small Rural Communities Take Part in Instructive School to Work Experiences.

Published by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools, the book reviews work-based learning programs in rural Montana and Washington state.

For example, the book's authors, Bruce A. Miller and Karen J. Hahn, visited the 300-student Liberty Bell High School in central Washington. Despite the school's small size, it offers more than 200 work-training courses, ranging from investment banking to wildlife biology.

"It's the only book I know of that's focused on school-to-work experiences for rural high school students," said Patricia Cahape Hammer, the associate director of the clearinghouse. The book costs $12 and is available from the ERIC Clearinghouse, PO Box 1348, Charleston, WV 25325-1348, or by calling (800) 624-9120.

Eighth graders from the rural South, especially girls, score lower than their rural peers nationwide on national mathematics exams, according to a report by the Southern Regional Education Board.

"Education's Weak Link: Student Performance in the Middle Grades," released last month, is the first of four SREB reports slated for release this year on the condition of middle-grades education in the South.

The work is being financed by a two-year grant from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation.

By studying results from the 1996 National Assessment of Educational Progress math test, researchers found that 50 percent of 8th graders in rural areas in the South scored at or above "basic," compared with 69 percent of rural students nationwide.

The highest marks went to nonrural students in large towns in the South and nationwide, 60 percent and 64 percent of whom, respectively, scored at or above basic.

Overall, nearly 50 percent of all Southern students in the study fell below that level. ("Muddle in the Middle," April 15, 1998.)

In addition, 48 percent of the girls from rural parts of the South scored below the basic level, compared with 39 percent of all girls nationwide.

"Perhaps our standards and expectations are too low," said Sondra Cooney, the director of middle-grades education for the Atlanta-based SREB. "The question is, how do you raise those?"

The report is available for $10 and can be obtained by calling Neil Snook at (404) 875-9211, ext. 236, or on the World Wide Web at

--ROBERT C. JOHNSTON [email protected]

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