National Center for Rural Education Research Networks (NCRERN)

Project Status: Current
Focus Areas: Postsecondary Access & SuccessSchool Improvement & Redesign
Location: National (Year 1 - New York & Ohio)
Timeline: Ongoing
Co-Principal Investigators: Thomas KaneDouglas StaigerChristopher Avery
Project Director: Jennifer Ash
Press Release: Harvard to launch center on rural education

The National Center for Rural Education Research Networks (NCRERN), hosted by the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard University, establishes and supports a collaborative network of rural school districts in New York and Ohio to apply the Proving Ground continuous improvement model to pressing challenges in rural education. NCRERN focuses its work on topics selected in conjunction with our partner states: chronic absenteeism, college readiness, and college enrollment.

For more information about NCRERN and how to get involved, visit

Our Research Plan

1. Historical analyses: With our partner states New York and Ohio, we’ll explore trends in chronic absenteeism, college readiness, and college enrollment and differences in outcomes by schools and subgroups in order to understand rural schools’ unique challenges and their possible solutions. We will also conduct predictive analyses to identify students most likely to benefit from targeted interventions.

2. Causal analyses: We’ll evaluate the interventions chosen by our partners in each of the three topic areas. These studies use randomized and quasi-randomized designs to monitor implementation, evaluate immediate impacts, and refine the intervention.

3. Replication evaluation: We’ll measure the impact of a subset of interventions—proven effective in New York and Ohio—in three additional states.

4. Overall evaluation: We will evaluate the impact of participation in NCRERN by comparing the change in outcomes in the participating districts and the comparison districts on a wide range of student outcomes.



Advisory Board

Our advisory board comprises esteemed experts in rural education to provide feedback about our work:

  • Paolo DeMaria, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Ohio Department of Education
  • Dr. Karen Eppley, Editor, Journal of Research in Rural Education, Penn State
  • Robert Mahaffey, Executive Director, Rural School and Community Trust
  • Dr. Allen Pratt, Executive Director, National Rural Education Association
  • Dr. Joan Wade, Executive Director, Association of Educational Service Agencies

Regional Advisors

NCRERN will also seek regional expertise from the following advisors:

  • Mike Fuller, Director, The Center for Innovation and Data Services at Muskingum Valley Educational Service Center
  • Dr. John Sipple, Associate Professor, Department of Development Sociology, Cornell University
  • Heather Boughton, Director of Research Evaluation & Advanced Analytics, Ohio Department of Education
  • Anita Murphy, District Superintendent, Capital Region BOCES


The College Board
Cornell University
Dartmouth College
Iowa Department of Education
Muskingum Valley Educational Service Center
New York Department of Education
Ohio Department of Education

NCRERN research reported on this website was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305C1900004. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.