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Developing future-ready students in rural areas

Developing future-ready students in rural areas

By Marguerite Huber
February 26, 2018

Understanding the key challenges and priorities for rural stakeholders is an important goal for Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest. Rural schools comprise at least one-fifth of the schools in every one of REL Midwest’s states. In Minnesota, rural school districts account for 43% of public school districts, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Today, one-quarter of our activities serve the needs of rural schools and students.

REL Midwest has designated liaisons to each state in the region to build relationships with education stakeholders and explore opportunities to collaborate and support their research needs. Taishya Adams, the Minnesota state liaison for REL Midwest, met with the executive director of the Minnesota Rural Education Association (MREA), Fred Nolan, PhD, in summer 2017 to learn more about the priorities and needs of rural schools in Minnesota. MREA represents the teachers, school board members, and administrators of 224 rural districts in Minnesota.

In November 2017, Adams attended the 2017 MREA Annual Conference, which focused on developing future-ready students. In her role as the state liaison, Adams saw the MREA conference as an opportunity to listen and learn about the content that is important to rural stakeholders and share that information with REL Midwest staff, including the facilitators of REL Midwest’s Career Readiness Research Alliance, a partnership that explores career readiness and pathways for Minnesota public high school graduates. The Midwest Career Readiness Research Alliance has put a special focus on opportunity gaps experienced by rural schools and students in Minnesota.

Reflecting on the conference, MREA Executive Director Nolan shares that this year cemented the idea that “successful educational programs that make a difference for students don’t happen overnight. It was good to be reconnected with the truth that continuous improvement, patiently pressing forward over time, is the pathway to student success.” When thinking of her experience at the conference, Adams’s biggest takeaway was the number of job postings in Minnesota that did not require a college degree in 2017. “That really amplified how important it is to include career readiness and not solely focus on college readiness. There needs to be more value and appreciation for the noncollege pathway,” she notes.

At the conference, Adams learned about one example of a school providing career pathways for students. Yellow Medicine East High School, a winner of MREA’s 2017 Profile of Excellence Award, created an extensive learning incubator. The students in the school’s trades and carpentry class built a three-chamber classroom in the school parking lot, where they learn science, technology, engineering, and math—all skills important for the workforce.

In each chamber of the classroom, students grow plants and raise fish from different climates. The experiential classroom provides significant benefits to students, such as the opportunity to learn about food cycles, the environment, scientific inquiry, and real-world problem solving that they would not be exposed to in a traditional classroom. “These students are coming up with more creative ways to feed the world. It amplifies real-world challenges and gives them the skills and opportunities to problem solve and be a part of the solution even before they graduate,” Adams says.

REL Midwest will use information from the rural Minnesota partners to inform the Midwest Career Readiness Research Alliance’s future activities. This year, REL Midwest is collaborating with MREA and other rural organizations in Minnesota to shape a documentary about career readiness efforts across the state.

Interested in learning more about REL Midwest’s work on career readiness and rural issues? Check out these resources:

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Author(s) Information

Marguerite Huber Staff Picture

Marguerite Huber

Communications Associate | REL Midwest


Achievement Gap (12)

Career Readiness (14)

Early Childhood (4)

Education Technology (7)

English Learners (2)

Research Methods (7)

Teacher Preparation (8)

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