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Ask A REL Response

July 2017


What research has been conducted on scaling up educational practices across rural communities?


Following an established REL Southeast research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on scaling up educational practices across rural communities. We focused on identifying resources that specifically addressed scaling up educational practices across rural communities. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. These references are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist."

Research References

  1. Cavanaugh, B., & Swan, M. (2015). Building SWPBIS capacity in rural schools through building-based coaching: Early findings from a district-based model. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 34(4), 29-39.
    From the abstract: "School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS) is a widely used framework for supporting student social and academic behavior. Implementation science indicates that one effective way to implement and scale-up practices, such as SWPBIS, is through coaching; thus, there is a need for efficient, cost-effective methods to develop and support SWPBIS coaches. Using the literature of implementation science and SWPBIS, we developed and implemented a coaching curriculum to increase and support building-based capacity with SWPBIS. In this article, we present a district-based model for training school personnel to become SWPBIS coaches. Data on initial training outcomes and school outcomes are presented. Findings suggest that the training of school-based coaches in rural schools resulted in improved knowledge of SWPBIS and supported fidelity of SWPBIS implementation in local schools. Lessons learned, as well as implications for practice and research, are discussed."
  2. Goos, M., Dole, S., & Geiger, V. (2011). Improving numeracy education in rural schools: a professional development approach. Mathematics Education Research Journal, 232, 129-148.
    From the abstract: "In Australia, concerns about the quality of mathematics education that students experience are particularly salient in rural schools. These schools typically report great difficulty in attracting and retaining qualified teachers of mathematics. Teachers in non-metropolitan locations may also experience professional isolation if they have limited access to professional development opportunities. This article reports on a year-long research and development project that provided such opportunities to teachers in ten rural and metropolitan schools in South Australia. Its purpose was to help the teachers plan and implement numeracy strategies across the school curriculum. The project was informed by a new model of numeracy whose elements comprise mathematical knowledge, dispositions, tools, contexts, and a critical orientation to the use of mathematics. To investigate the effectiveness of the numeracy model and the professional development approach, data were collected via lesson observations, teacher and student interviews, and written tasks that tracked changes over time in teachers' understanding of numeracy. Most teachers began the project with a concern for improving students' mathematical knowledge or dispositions, but then gradually incorporated other elements of the model into their planning and practice. A case study of an early career teacher in a rural school illustrates one developmental trajectory through the elements of the model. Teachers identified time, openness, collegiality, and accountability as features of the professional development approach that contributed to its effectiveness. Implications for sustainability and scaling up are discussed, especially with reference to supporting teachers in rural schools."
  3. Fitzgerald, C. B., Geraci, L. M., & Swanson, M. (2014). Scaling up in rural schools using positive behavioral interventions and supports. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 331, 18-22.
    From the abstract: "Many educators struggle with the challenges of effective behavior management. In rural schools, this frequently means that educators are struggling to do more, with little or no additional resources. Positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) is one approach to proactive behavior management. In order to facilitate PBIS in a regional area, researchers implemented a week-long training and year-round ongoing coaching for representative members of participating schools/districts to create a plan for implementation suited to the needs of their schools/districts. This article provides a brief overview of school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports with a particular focus on one rural school's successful implementation."
  4. Naumenko, O., Henson, R., & Hutchins, B. (2016). Preliminary impacts of North Carolina's rural innovative schools project. Society of Research on Educational Effectiveness.
    From the abstract: "Funded by an Investing in Innovation (i3) Validation grant, the Rural Innovative Schools (RIS) Project is the first widespread effort to scale up the early college model by implementing it in comprehensive high schools. This paper will present preliminary findings from the evaluation of this project. The impact study uses a quasi-experimental design to assess the impact of the RIS Project on a core set of student outcomes. The treatment schools were matched to schools that were equivalent on a core set of baseline characteristics. The specific outcomes examined in this study include: (1) Percent of students who have enrolled in at least 1 College-Credit Bearing- Course by the end of 11th grade; (2) Average number of college-credit bearing courses students have taken and passed by the end of 12th grade; (3) Cohort graduation rate; (4) Attendance; (5) Dropout rate; (6) College preparatory course-taking; and (7) College preparatory course-taking and success. The results from this study will show the extent to which implementation of early college strategies in comprehensive high schools can have the same impact as the stand-alone early college model. Tables and figures are appended."
  5. Redding, C., Cannata, M., & Taylor Haynes, K. (2017). With scale in mind: A continuous improvement model for implementation. Peabody Journal of Education, 92(5), 589-608.
    From the abstract: "The conventional approach to scaling up educational reforms considers the development and testing phases to be distinct from the work of implementing at scale. Decades of research suggest that this approach yields inconsistent and often disappointing improvements for schools most in need. More recent scholarship on scaling school improvement suggests that these activities should be integrated into implementation, although this presents challenges in how we evaluate implementation in particular schools. This paper presents a framework to conceptualize implementation when design, implementation, and scaling up are integrated activities."


Keywords and Search Strings
The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Scaling up educational practices, rural communities
  • Rural schools, educational innovation
  • Rural schools, capacity building
  • Rural schools, educational innovation

Databases and Resources
We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2003 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types - randomized control trials,, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc. (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southeast under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0011, administered by Florida State University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.