• • Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho •

• Exploring the Successes and Challenges of Rural Education •

The Problem

One-in-three American schools are rural; one-in-four American students attend school in a rural community. Four out of every ten rural students are low-income. Yet the national education reform movement has focused primarily on the needs of low-income urban students. Little has been done to advance the understanding of how to help these schools serve their diverse populations and provide educational equity.

The Response

As part of its mission to discover limitless learning opportunities for all Idahoans, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, a private family foundation based in Boise, launched the Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho (ROCI). ROCI brings together some of the nation’s best thinkers to conduct research on the challenges of rural education and identify innovations, programs and models to address them. This effort will inform a national body of work on rural education and explore implications for increasing the educational attainment and economic competitiveness of Idahoans and Americans.

ROCI Advisory Group


Dr. Paul Hill
Dr. Paul HillFounder and former Director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education

“Rural schools educate almost as many children as big city schools, but they haven’t received anything like the same level of attention from policy makers, the public, or educational innovators. I believe ROCI will right the balance and bring creative new solutions to the problems of rural schools. I hope ROCI puts rural education on the map, as a national priority for policy makers and funders, as a magnet for the most talented young teachers and principals who have previously focused only on urban education and as a priority for philanthropies.”

Jamie MacMillan
Jamie MacMillanAlbertson Foundation President

“We believe rural schools can be a better place for innovation because of their close relationships with and support from the community, as well as their ability to mobilize and respond quickly to needs, but we want to know for sure. Our foundation’s board believes Idaho can be a national leader, a model in closing the achievement gap for students who might have disadvantaged backgrounds and circumstances. Enabling them to realize their full potential and contribute to communities will strengthen the economic fabric of our state and nation.”

Andy Smarick
Andy SmarickBellwether’s lead partner for ROCI

“The needs of rural students probably haven’t gotten the attention they deserve. ROCI will identify proven reforms that could be introduced into rural communities and help develop new strategies carefully tailored to the needs and conditions of rural America. Through this project, we’re going to help Idaho and other states with rural communities develop strategies on human capital, funding, school choice, technology, accountability and more. I hope this work will have a profound influence on policy makers, the education reform community and anyone interested in the needs of underserved kids.”

ROCI Task Force Members


Dr. Paul T. Hill is a research professor at the University of Washington Bothell and former director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, which studies alternative governance and finance systems for public K-12 education. His most recent books are Learning as We Go: Why School Choice is Worth the Wait (Hoover Institution Press, 2010) and Strife and Progress: Portfolio Strategies for Managing Urban Schools (Brookings, 2012). His book, Fixing Urban Schools (Brookings, 1998) is a primer for city leaders and foundations on strategies for transforming failing public school systems. Dr. Hill is also the author, with Lawrence Pierce and James Guthrie, of Reinventing Public Education: How Contracting Can Transform America’s Schools (University of Chicago Press, 1997). He was the 2007 recipient of the Thomas B. Fordham Prize for Distinguished Scholarship. Dr. Hill is the chair of ROCI.

Bryan C. Hassel is co-director of Public Impact. He is a recognized expert on education technology, charter schools, education entrepreneurship, and teacher and leader policy. Dr. Hassel received his Ph.D. in public policy from Harvard University and his master’s degree in politics from Oxford University, which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. He earned his B.A. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which he attended as a Morehead Scholar. He is a senior research affiliate with the Center on Reinventing Public Education, and a nonresident senior fellow with Education Sector. Dr. Hassel is author of several studies on uses of education technology including “A Better Blend: A Vision for Boosting Student Outcomes with Digital Learning” and “Teachers in the Age of Digital Instruction.”

Edward Kissam is an applied researcher who has worked on policy, program planning and evaluation issues in adult education, community radio and immigrant settlement in the rural United States for more than 30 years. He is the author of Working Poor: Farmworkers in the United States (Temple University Press, 1995). From 2003-2007 he led a USAID-funded longitudinal survey of community-based accelerated learning for primary school students in 10 rural provinces in Afghanistan and provided technical assistance to the Ministry of Education. Mr. Kissam currently serves as a trustee of the Werner-Kohnstamm Family Fund which supports initiatives contributing to the well-being of immigrants in California and nationally.

Paul A. Lewin is an assistant professor in the department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology at the University of Idaho. He does research in rural economic development and assists extension and communities across Idaho through programming and analysis in community economics. Before joining the University of Idaho, Dr. Lewin worked in community and economic development across Latin America and subsequently as an economist in both government and private sector positions in Europe and the United States. His research program includes entrepreneurship, migration, community economic resilience and dynamic changes of community and small regional economies. He is fluent in English and Spanish.

Kay McClenney consults with community colleges, state systems, national and state organizations, and foundations.  She was the founding director and senior associate of the Center for Community College Student Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin and previously served for 10 years as vice president and chief operating officer of the Education Commission of the States. Ms. McClenny has also served as a community college educator, during which time she was a faculty member, program director, system administrator, and interim CEO. She has authored numerous publications on education issues, strategic planning, accountability, student success and leadership.

Brad Mitchell is a senior director at Battelle for Kids, where he focuses on building and leveraging philanthropy to fund innovative education reform, especially around rural collaboratives that can serve as learning laboratories and pilot improvement initiatives. Previously, he led the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative, a partnership between Battelle for Kids and 21 school districts in southeast Ohio dedicated to developing a comprehensive approach for transformational change in rural education.  Prior to joining Battelle for Kids, Dr. Mitchell served as the Ohio State University/Battelle Director of STEM Partnerships, where he was charged with identifying, launching, and supporting public and private partnerships that advanced STEM education. From 1984 to 2004, Brad was a professor in the School of Educational Policy and Leadership in the College of Education at The Ohio State University.

Daniel Player is assistant professor at the University of Virginia. He was formerly the director of Partners for Leadership in Education and a senior researcher at Mathematica Policy Research. An economist, Dr. Player focuses on the education workforce, particularly the links among policy, funding, performance incentives and the quality of teachers and principals. He has also studied the economics of rural areas and farmers’ adoption of new methods.

Andrew J. Rotherham is a co-founder and partner at Bellwether Education, a national nonprofit organization working to support educational innovation and improve educational outcomes for low-income students. Rotherham leads Bellwether’s thought leadership and policy analysis work. He is also the executive editor of RealClearEducation, part of the RealClearPolitics family of news and analysis websites, writes the blog Eduwonk.com, and is the co-publisher of “Education Insider” a federal policy analysis tool produced by Whiteboard Advisors. Rotherham previously served at The White House as Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy during the Clinton administration and is a former member of the Virginia Board of Education. Rotherham is the author or co-author of more than 250 published articles, book chapters, papers, and op-eds about education policy and politics and is the author or editor of four books on educational policy.

Marguerite Roza is the director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University and senior research affiliate at the Center on Reinventing Public Education. Dr. Roza’s research traces the effects of fiscal policies at the federal, state and district levels for their implications on resources at school and classroom levels. Her calculations of dollar implications and cost equivalent trade-offs have prompted changes in education finance policy at all levels in the education system. She has led projects including the Finance and Productivity Initiative at CRPE and the Schools in Crisis Rapid Response Paper Series. More recently she served as senior economic advisor to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Her work has been published by Education Sector, the Brookings Institution, Public Budgeting and Finance, Education Next and the Peabody Journal of Education. Dr. Roza is author of the highly regarded education finance book, Educational Economics: Where Do School Funds Go? (Urban Institute Press, 2010).

Terry Ryan is the president of the Idaho Charter School Network. Previously, he served as the vice president for Ohio Programs and Policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Mr. Ryan began his career in education as a teacher in Poland and worked with the Polish Ministry of Education and the Foundation for Education for Democracy in the mid-1990s. He was awarded the Paterson International Fellowship from the University of Denver in 1994 and was a research director for the UK-based 21st Century Learning Initiative. Ryan was a 2008 New Schools Venture Fund/Aspen Institute Fellow and is a research fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Ryan holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in political economy from the University of Denver’s Graduate School of International Studies.



Webinar: The Supply and Demand for Rural Teachers

The Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho hosted a webinar on March 18 on the Supply and demand for rural teachers. In his recently published white paper, available on www.rociidaho.org, Dr. Daniel Player looks at the constraints and challenges rural schools face when it comes to competition for highly talented teachers.

Blog: The Complications of Educational Returns in Rural America

The latest paper from ROCI, our rural ed-reform task force, is a totally fascinating study of the economic “return on schooling,” how much do individuals in a given location benefit financially from higher educational attainment. Although it focuses on Idaho, its lessons are applicable everywhere.

Op-Ed: Put Technology to Work in Rural Schools

Technology makes it possible for each of us to do more, learn more and be more connected.

Need to pay your bills and register your kid for swim lessons while locating a recipe for dinner? Jump online. Want to learn more about something you just overheard while in line at the grocery store? Type it into a search engine.

Contact ROCI

Thank you! We have received your message.

ROCI – Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho

E-Mail: info@rociidaho.org

Twitter: @ROCIdaho