Collaborating to Advance Rural Education


On October 12-14, more than 500 rural education leaders from 44 states came together in Columbus, Ohio for the National Forum to Advance Rural Education, co-sponsored by Battelle for Kids and the National Rural Education Association (NREA). The event featured more than 100 learning sessions, thought-provoking keynote presentations, and opportunities to network and collaborate around issues critical to rural education.

"Rural schools knit together the social fabric of rural communities," declared Mara Casey Tieken, author of Why Rural Schools Matter, during her keynote address. “Rural schools offer gathering places to share common goals with a common future.”

RuralForumCollageThe theme of the Forum was “Growing Rural Success,” with a particular focus on connecting education and work, strengthening the profession, and supporting the whole child.  The event was hosted in partnership with the Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee Departments of Education.

“The conference was a great personal growth and learning experience for me,” shared Jon Andes, executive director of the Eastern Shore of Maryland Educational Consortium (ESMEC). “The networking was a wonderful opportunity to discover new ideas and strategies to make a difference in the lives of our next generation of young people!”

The ESMEC is one of 14 rural education collaboratives from across the country that are part of the Rural Collaborative Network. Members of the network gathered at the Forum to explore better ways to amplify their collective impact on advancing deeper learning access, equity, and success for rural students. In addition, representatives from the state education agencies in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee met with Battelle for Kids, NREA, the Rural School and Community Trust, as well as the U.S. Department of Education to discuss ideas for identifying and scaling up successful rural education innovations.  

A highlight of the Forum was a panel discussion with students from Appalachian Ohio who talked about their experiences growing up and going to school in rural communities.  

“You never really understand what it means being from Appalachia until you leave,” said Katie Exline, a sophomore at Otterbein College. “I love my hometown for what it is and what it gave me growing up.”

If you share a passion for advancing rural education, mark your calendars for the 2018 National Forum to Advance Rural Education, October 11-13 in Denver, Colorado! Join us to learn, network, and help unite and inspire people to action. Event details will be available soon at


Contact Brad Mitchell at to learn more about the Rural Collaborative Network and Battelle for Kids’ work with rural schools and communities across the country. To get more information about the National Rural Education Association, visit or contact Allen Pratt, Executive Director, at