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New Study Provides a Roadmap for Rural School District Improvement

00:00 AM - November 07, 2018

Pivot Learning Press Release:

Promising Results from a PACE study of rural district network designed by Pivot Learning and the El Dorado County Office of Education.

Rural and isolated school districts face big challenges—fewer resoruces, budget crunches, difficulties recruiting and retaining teachers and accessing professional development available to urban districts. Not to mention improving student outcomes and closing achievement gaps. But a recently released report, “The Network Solution: How Rural District Networks Can Drive Continuous Improvement” by Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) provides a roadmap to support rural school districts to meet these challenges head on.

Pivot Learning worked with California’s El Dorado County Office of Education (EDCOE) to establish a Rural Professional Learning Network (RPLN) in 2017. The fifteen districts of the RPLN engaged their local educators to design solutions to their toughest challenges in improving mathematics instruction. Pivot and EDCOE served as the facilitators of the network by organizing ongoing meetings, offering technical assistance, supporting local site visits, bringing in external experts and providing an online collaboration and resource platform.

The paper reveals the potential of the RPLN, which builds competence and engagement from the ground up. By marshalling resources and sharing information among small school districts that often have similar issues, rural networks can cost-effectively provide expertise and build a professional culture organically. A partnership with the California Department of Education Foundation to use their platform, Collaboration in Common, meant that the RPLN members could collaborate online and enhance their learning in between meetings. State and local support providers in California and across the nation can use the lessons learned from this model to support rural districts to improve educational outcomes.

“There is immense potential in leveraging the power of a network to support rural schools,” said Pivot Learning CEO Dr. Arun Ramanathan.

Added Ed Manansala, Superintendent of the El Dorado County Office of Education, “the Rural Professional Learning Network provides opportunities for our districts to collaborate, which supports continuous improvement across the county.”

Indeed, local leaders from the participating school districts noted major benefits from being part of the network:

• First, members appreciated the access to high-quality expertise, professional development, and instructional resources they would not otherwise have had.

• Second, members found it useful to exchange ideas, collaborate on common issues, and build a shared sense of what a good instructional program looks like.

Because professional development is expensive, rural and small districts can rarely afford to pay for expert consultants. But by establishing collaborative networks, districts and schools can access resources that previously may have been cost prohibitive and provide educators with the opportunity to share resources as they collectively address shared problems.

According to an educator profiled for the report, the network's collaborative framework is having an effect.

“Out here,” she said, “we don’t have that [professional development and external expertise]. It’s frustrating. We have a high level of need, especially in math. We are unable to access support. When we heard about RPLN, we saw this as an opportunity to merge resources with other small districts and work together.”

The report is available to download here:

About Pivot Learning:

Founded in 1995, Pivot Learning is a nonprofit organization of K-12 education experts who work directly with districts and charters to address their biggest challenges, including raising student achievement and closing unconscionably large achievement gaps. Pivot’s mission is to partner with educators to design and implement solutions to their greatest challenges in achieving educational justice. We envision a future where our public schools provide our most underserved students with an outstanding education. Learn more at

About El Dorado County Office of Education

El Dorado County Office of Education (EDOCE) is comprised of fifteen school districts with a total of 67 schools. EDCOE supports the diverse educational needs of El Dorado County’s student population not only in schools but throughout the community. Our leadership provides students with progressive and engaging learning experiences, while facilitating collaboration that maximizes resources for school districts and the county alike. Our goal is to deliver educational excellence through responsible, cost-effective centralized services in order to meet regulatory and educational standards in a safe, successful, educational environment for all of our children. Learn more at

About Polcy Analysis for California Education

Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) is an independent, non-partisan research center led by faculty directors at Stanford University, the University of Southern California, the University of California Davis, the University of California Los Angeles, and the University of California Berkeley. PACE seeks to define and sustain a long-term strategy for comprehensive policy reform and continuous improvement in performance at all levels of California’s education system, from early childhood to postsecondary education and training. PACE bridges the gap between research and policy, working with scholars from California’s leading universities and with state and local policymakers to increase the impact of academic research on educational policy in California. Learn more at PACE

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