Revving up rural schools

  Without the drama of guns and gangs, the popular media usually leave rural education in a time warp of little red schoolhouses and outdated textbooks. But rural schools, which house one-quarter of the nation's students and teachers, turned decades ago to interdisciplinary studies, multi-grade classrooms and community- based learning - all "innovations' being introduced in urban schools. To support these achievements, philanthropist Walter Annenberg will spend $50 million over the next five years to launch a "sustainable rural-school reform movement" organizers call the Annenberg Rural Challenge. The plan is to identify model rural schools based on their commitment to both the students and the community. These schools will use funds to help other rural schools through partnerships and joint projects, until reform "spreads like an amoeba," says Challenge director Paul Nachtigal. An initial group has been selected that includes two Native American schools, one in Alaska and another in Arizona. The next step, says Nachtigal, is for regional offices to find matching funds. Contact the Annenberg Rural Challenge, P.O. Box 1546, Granby, CO 80446.