Rural school districts feel overlooked by federal policies

National education-reform initiatives are focused on urban environments, say advocates for rural schools. Schools in low-population areas have their own problems, including difficulty developing charter schools and implementing merit pay for teachers -- key conditions for eligibility in Race to the Top stimulus funding. Although officials from some states have criticized the Obama administration for an inner-city focus, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said "rural schools shouldn't let their unique challenges become excuses for keeping the status quo."

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