September 2015
CNA Education Releases a New Report
Earlier this month, CNA Education released the report Appalachia Rising, a systematic review of 20 years of education research on the region dubbed "Middle Appalachia." The goal of this review was, as Vice President of Education Stacey Jordan put it, "to provide policymakers, practitioners, and researchers with critical information to understand and begin to address education challenges unique to Middle Appalachia through data-informed initiatives."

For the purposes of their work, researchers Drs. Patricia Kannapel and Michael Flory defined "Middle Appalachia" as the mostly contiguous portions of Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. The region is predominantly rural, poor, and characterized by a deep sense of place, isolationism, and independence. It also has had a disproportionate dependence on a single, rapidly declining industry - coal.
The report provides a detailed and nuanced picture of education in Middle Appalachia, spotlighting five topics of regional and national priority - college and career readiness, educator effectiveness, access to high-quality curriculum and instruction, systemic capacity, and health and wellness. It also considers the region-specific dynamics that influence them. Key among those is Appalachian culture, which affects student achievement, aspirations, and supports.

Overall, the findings suggest that Middle Appalachia is closing the education and economic gaps with other parts of the country, but much work remains necessary to provide equitable opportunities to all students. The report highlights areas for further research, including college enrollment and completion; career and technical education programs; improving teacher and leader effectiveness; and implementation, impact, and sustainability of curriculum and instruction improvement initiatives.

Click below for a graphical summary of the report's findings, or click here to read the full report.

Q & A with the Researchers
Report authors Drs. Patricia Kannapel and Michael Flory talk about key findings from CNA Education's recent report Appalachia Rising.

How are schools in Middle Appalachia doing in terms of college and career readiness?
On average, high school students from Middle Appalachia do as well academically as students from non-Appalachian portions of their states. Graduation rates meet or exceed national averages. ACT scores also seem to be similar to students from other regions, and some students can succeed in Advanced Placement, though investments have been needed to promote such programs.

What about college going and persistence?
College going and college completion remain a challenge in the region. While students seem to be prepared academically, social and cultural factors (e.g., that college had been neither needed nor desired in the past) are very important, as well. Many students lack support networks that make going to college a realistic option. Such networks would provide necessary practical guidance, encouragement and motivation, and financial support.

What is the main takeaway from this report regarding the effectiveness of educators in Middle Appalachia?
Middle Appalachia has a relatively stable educator workforce. Many people in the area become principals or teachers because of their love for the region and its students. However, there is a need for more and better teachers in science, math, technology, and special education, an issue that regional colleges of education might address.

What kinds of curriculum and instructional improvements are under way in Middle Appalachia?
National programs and trends such as the Common Core, Race to the Top, and National Science Foundation-supported STEM programs have had a huge impact. They have focused schools on challenging students to higher levels of learning, improving college and career readiness, upgrading science and math education, and using blended and online learning approaches. More research is needed on the impact of these initiatives.
Of Interest

"What Do We Do When Middle School Students Can't Read the Text? Can't Solve the Math Problem?"   
  REL Appalachia workshop October 19, 2015, Roanoke, VA

Upcoming Presentations 

Appalachia Rising authors Drs. Patricia Kannapel and Michael Flory will present on the study and its findings at the National Rural Education Association meeting in St. Louis on October 17. Dr. Flory will participate on a panel about REL work in rural America at the same meeting on Oct. 17.

CNA Education researcher Dr. Christine Mokher and will present at the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management's 37th Fall Research Conference in Miami, Florida, on November 13. Their paper examines how course-taking patterns have changed among high school students under the Florida College & Career Readiness Initiative (FCCRI). This paper is one component of CNA Education's 5-year evaluation of the FCCRI.

New Resources

"Teaching Rational Numbers to Middle Schoolers"
Video from REL Appalachia August 26, 2015, webinar

"Teaching Academic Content and Literacy to English Learners"

Presentation slides from REL Appalachia July 22 & 23, 2015, workshops

"College Readiness Summer Professional Development Forum"
Presentation slides from CNA Education August 4, 2015, workshop


CNA Education released a report on education in the "Middle Appalachia" region on September 16. Read the full report here.
About CNA Education
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Making Effective Use of Data
Teacher Quality

K-12 Program Effectiveness
Transitions from Secondary School
College and Career Readiness / Workforce Development

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Applied Research

Policy Analysis
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What will it take for schools and students in Middle Appalachia to become nationally and globally competitive?
They are making great strides, but these small, poor, isolated school districts cannot do it alone. Past successes have come through partnering with regional universities, colleges, and community organizations to seek out external funding streams to support improvements tailored to local needs.

What emerging issues are confronting districts and schools in Middle Appalachia in 2015?
Health and wellness is a growing concern. Childhood obesity and substance abuse are increasing nationally, but disproportionately so in Middle Appalachia. Schools in the region join with other agencies in prevention efforts.
CNA Education Briefs Capitol Hill Staffers
On September 16, CNA Education hosted a briefing on its report Appalachia Rising on Capitol Hill, attended by  Congressional staffers.

CNA Education researchers Drs. Lu Young, Michael Flory, and Patricia Kannapel (left to right) present key findings, implications, and next steps.

Dr. Flory (based in Kentucky) describes the regional contexts that shape education in Middle Appalachia.

Dr. Kannapel (based in Kentucky) fields a question.
Research Corner: Our Research on College and Career Readiness
Florida College and Career Readiness Initiative
CNA Education is evaluating the Florida College and Career Readiness Initiative (FCCRI), a statewide program to help students become college-ready by high school graduation and succeed in obtaining college credentials. Our Year 2 Report describes feedback from the 2013/14 school year about the program's strengths and weaknesses and ways to increase its effectiveness.
NE Tennessee Consortium
Since 2009, the Northeast Tennessee College and Career Ready Consortium has supported the region's rural schools and nearby higher education institutions in increasing students' access to, participation in, and completion of academically rigorous courses. CNA is evaluating the program. In a recent Quarterly Report, we examined the Consortium's progress in improving the quality of instruction in math and science and in expanding the availability of online learning, distance learning, and college-level Advanced Placement and dual enrollment courses.
    In spring 2015, CNA Education researchers interviewed administrators and guidance counselors at all 30 Consortium high schools to understand how they have overcome challenges and identify promising practices. They also asked about plans the schools may have for sustaining their programs once the supporting Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) grant ends this month.
Mastery Learning
Mastery learning is a teaching approach that requires students to demonstrate mastery of each course topic before they can advance to the next topic. As interest in the approach increases, schools are asking how to implement the approach. Research describing how the process plays out in today's classrooms is limited, however. To address this need, CNA Education explored how three Kentucky high schools defined and implemented mastery learning to promote deeper understanding of academic content and improve college and career readiness for all students.
CTE vs. Remedial Academics
CNA Education examined the hurdles to increasing the earnings of American workers, especially low-income workers, through better education and training. In our study, we followed the movement of 145,000 Florida students through high school into college and the workforce, looking at practical ways to overcome some of those hurdles. The findings provide new evidence for low-performing students to increase their chances of obtaining credentials and entering high-paying jobs by taking career and technical education courses rather than remedial academic courses.

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