The National Rural Education Association recently announced its five-year research agenda, and West Virginia University’s Erin McHenry Sorber is at the center of the team that helped develop the major priorities and for current and future rural education research.
McHenry-Sorber is one of six members of the NREA’s subcommittee that designed a research agenda to help plot a path for rural education with the goal of shedding light on innovative rural practices, addressing unique rural challenges and continuing to build on the strengths of rural people and places.
The 2022-2027 Rural Research Agenda centers around spatial and educational equity with five additional interconnected themes: policy and funding; teacher/leader recruitment, retention, and preparation; college and career trajectory; community partnerships and relationships; and health and wellness.
“This agenda provides an essential perspective on the needs of rural schools and communities,” said McHenry-Sorber, higher education administration associate professor. “The new research agenda reflects important shifts in the context of rural schooling in America.”
“This research agenda provides a powerful tool to help ensure rural strengths are recognized and inequities are understood and addressed,” said Allen Pratt, executive director of the NREA.
The agenda was developed through research data collected from a broad representation of rural education stakeholders. The research included a survey that collected over 300 responses and 15 interviews and focus groups.
“The agenda reflects the voices of the people we engaged with in rural schools to help inform the direction of future research,” McHenry-Sorber said. “It shows the ways major rural education challenges intersect with one another in complex ways. It also highlights the common strengths and challenges and the diverse advantages across rural schools and communities.
“In addition to providing value for practitioners in rural areas, the work will also aim to inform policymakers about the unique challenges and opportunities in rural schools and communities so they can best support rural youth,” she said.
McHenry-Sorber has served on the NREA Research Committee for over a decade.
The full agenda can be found on NREA’s website.