December 16, 2005
Contacts: Jim Bradshaw|
Tucson, Ariz. The U.S. Department of Education today announced the creation of the Center for Rural Education to address challenges facing rural schools and named former U.S. Commissioner of Education William L. Smith as its director.
Housed within the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) and working in tandem with the Secretary's Task Force for Rural Education, the center will serve as an information resource for policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels.
Beto Gonzalez, acting assistant secretary for the Education Department's Office of Vocational and Adult Education, made the announcement in remarks to a national meeting of the Council of Chief State School Officers in Tucson, Ariz.
Gonzalez also chairs the department's Rural Education Task Force, which met this week in Washington to discuss efforts to promote excellence in rural education through the No Child Left Behind Act.
In a statement from Washington, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings hailed the creation of the new center and said, "I believe that every child, including those who attend a rural school, deserves the benefit of a quality education promised under No Child Left Behind."
"I am committed to addressing the needs of our students, educators, and parents in rural America," the secretary said. "This new center will take a leadership role in advancing the cause of rural education."
The center's director, William Smith, was the last U.S. commissioner of education in the former Office of Education, located in the former Department of Health, Education and Welfare, before it became a separate department in 1980.
Since that time, Smith has served in various management roles within the Education Department.
The U.S. Department of Education estimates that nearly 42 percent of the nation's public schools are in rural communities or small towns.
A primary goal of the center will be to update The Condition of Education in Rural Schools, a report last released by the U.S. Department of Education in 1994. The center will also host a series of focus groups and forums to highlight issues facing rural education.
The Office of Vocational and Adult Education in which the center will be located has a long history of helping rural America. For years, the office has included liaison staff to the National FFA Organization, formerly known as the Future Farmers of America.
The No Child Left Behind Act is the bipartisan landmark education reform law designed to change the culture of America's schools by closing the achievement gap, offering more flexibility to states, giving parents more information and options and teaching students based on what works. Under the law's strong accountability provisions, states must describe how they will close the achievement gap and make sure all students, including those with disabilities, achieve academically.
More information about the Center for Rural Education is available at: http://www.ed.gov/nclb/freedom/local/rural/index.html.
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