The National Center for Rural Education Research Networks is a research and development center with a mission to expand the use of evidence-based decision-making in rural education. To this end, we seek to contribute to the body of rigorous research and proven solutions in rural education.

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What We Do

Focus Areas

We determine our focus areas by working with partners, education agencies, researchers, and other organizations to identify the most pressing challenges for districts. Our current focus areas include attendance, postsecondary readiness, and postsecondary entry.

Our Process

We utilize Proving Ground’s continuous improvement framework to help our partners better understand their challenges and rapidly identify and implement solutions that work for all involved.

What is Our Continuous Improvement Process?

continuous improvement cycle

The National Center for Rural Education Research Networks uses the continuous improvement process developed by Proving Ground, a program at the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University. The Proving Ground continuous improvement process guides districts to use data to understand pressing challenges, design promising solutions, and quickly implement and test solutions to find what works for students and families.

Our Approach

We expand the impact of our continuous improvement process by establishing a network of rural partners with similar challenges. By sharing their insights and experiences across the network, partners are able to rapidly identify solutions that work for students and families.

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Our Research

Over five years, the Center will conduct research studies with rural partners. We'll share findings and best practices from these studies with the goal of bringing new evidence and resources to bear in the field of rural education.

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Our Team


The Center is led by Director Jennifer Ash with Principal Investigators Thomas Kane, Douglas Staiger, and Christopher Avery with an advisory board rural education and regional experts.

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