The Coalition of Essential Schools and Rural Educational Reform

Jim La Prad


The Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) has existed for thirty years and includes hundreds of public schools that are diverse in size, population, and programmatic emphasis. A qualitative grounded theory approach is utilized to describe how three rural (non-urban/suburban) high schools operationalize CES Common Principles. This research documents that the CES reform network may be both a viable and underutilized reform model for rural school districts to assist them in achieving educational excellence. Empirical data came from school site visits, interviews and school documents. Grounded theory identifies four working hypothesis that explain how these schools, as CES members, aim to be true to the Coalition’s principles. The working hypotheses are: (1) Educational justice, democracy, and citizenship, (2) The educational value of interpersonal relationships between teachers and students, (3) Pedagogical and curricular organization to enhance student engagement and learning, and (4) Pathways to adulthood via the world.

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