Rural Education in America

Rural Education in America What Works for Our Students, Teachers, and Communities

Geoff Marietta and Sky Marietta
paper, 224 Pages
Pub. Date: December 2020
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-560-8
Price: $32.00

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Pub. Date: December 2020
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-562-2

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Rural Education in America provides a comprehensive framework for understanding the diversity and complexity of rural communities in the United States and for helping rural educators implement and evaluate successful place-based programs tailored for students and their families. Written by educators who grew up in rural America and returned there to raise their children, the book illustrates how efficacy is determined by the degrees to which instruction, interventions, and programs address the needs and strengths of each unique rural community.


Students growing up in cities or affluent suburbs shouldn’t have an edge over those raised in the Appalachian coal country or other sectors of rural America when it comes to receiving a top-notch education. Rural matters. Geoff and Sky Marietta take us to an often neglected slice of America that needs to be part of the narrative if our country is going to be successful. Young learners living in rural areas have as much right to an equitable educational opportunity as anyone else. — Daniel A. Domenech, executive director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

Rural America is often misunderstood, which results in policies and practices misaligned to the needs of its schools. Geoff and Sky Marietta tap their experience as practitioners, researchers, and community members to develop a more complex and complete understanding of rural America. They take a strengths-based approach to creating a framework for action that provides inspiring, evidence-based solutions. — Ryan Wise, dean, Drake University School of Education

The Mariettas offer an accurate glimpse into what it is like to lead education in rural America. They identify valuable strategies in place in schools to meet the needs of rural education and suggest future action to benefit the work of school leaders. Their experience in rural schools lends authority and the couple identify valuable examples of problem solving through-out Rural Education in America. — School Administrator

Rural Education in America is an advocacy text created to promote and improve education in rural America. The authors provide important insights into why rural students don’t go to college, which includes the tendency of students to stay in their rural communities. This book is an important contribution to rural education and provides more current information relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic. — Teachers College Record

Geoff and Sky Marietta set out to correct common misunderstandings about rural communities, highlighting their assets and strengths, and offering some direction for rural schools, and they successfully achieve this goal. For scholars and laypeople alike who seek to better understand rural areas, and the role that schools play in these communities, Rural Education in America is a recommended and worthwhile read. — Journal School of Choice

Rural Education in America presents a framework for understanding the complexity of the education system in rural America and the children it serves, promoting strategies that fit the sociological and historical reality of the rural community rather than merely encouraging outmigration. — Journal of Economic Literature

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About the Authors

Geoff Marietta is entrepreneur-in-residence at the University of the Cumberlands and founder of Invest 606, a business accelerator and pitch contest for Southeastern Kentucky in partnership with the University of the Cumberlands, Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, and the James Graham Brown Foundation. Geoff is also the founder of Mountain Tech Media, a diversified front-end digital media company based in Eastern Kentucky, and Trillium Ventures, a community development real estate company that invests and restores historic main street buildings in the region. He is the former executive director of Pine Mountain Settlement School, an eight-hundred-acre National Historic Landmark community nonprofit in Harlan County, Kentucky. Born in Hibbing, Minnesota, on the Mesabi Iron Range, Geoff attended the University of Montana, where he studied forestry. He then lived on the Navajo Nation in rural New Mexico, teaching high school special education and serving as an assistant principal. He went on to earn his MBA from Harvard Business School and a doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. During his time in Cambridge, Geoff cofounded and served as CEO of the software development company Giant Otter Technologies, acquired by In addition to Rural Education in America, Geoff is a coauthor of Improving Education Together and Achieving Coherence in District Improvement—as well as more than twenty case studies, articles, and reports. He currently lives in Williamsburg, Kentucky, with his wife, Sky, and their sons, Harlan and Perry.

Sky Marietta is an assistant professor at the University of the Cumberlands and director of the Learning Commons, a peer-based program to support the academic achievement of vulnerable college students. She also is the owner of Moonbow, a group of three small businesses that support Appalachian artists and suppliers on Main Street in Corbin, Harlan, and Williamsburg. Sky grew up in Appalachian Kentucky, the fifth of her parents’ seven children. She went to college at Yale, became a teacher on the Navajo Nation, and then received her doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) in child development with a focus on language and literacy. Rural communities have been a through line of her work, including a dissertation that examined the differences between early literacy development in urban and rural poor communities. She taught a class on rural education at HGSE as a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer. Since graduating, she has launched an early childhood program in Harlan County in Kentucky and worked as a specialist for Kentucky’s Cooperative Extension program. In addition to Rural Education in America, she is a coauthor of Teaching Advanced Literacy Skills and Making Assessment Matter. She lives with her husband, Geoff, their sons, Harlan and Perry, and two dogs. She blogs about their lives and businesses at

Table of Contents


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