Appalachian Rural Talent Initiative

For bright rural futures we need to invest in bright rural students! Dedicating time and resources to place-based gifted education is one way to promote the value of rural living, create sustainable rural communities, and cultivate future rural leaders. 

The Appalachian Rural Talent Initiative, funded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and supported by Virginia Tech, strives to support sustainable gifted programming in rural Appalachian districts in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. With participating districts, we share alternative methods for identifying students for gifted services that allow more rural students to benefit from enrichment activities, raising student achievement scores in the process. We provide a place-based language arts curriculum to be used with identified students and offer continuing support for teachers. This work is an extension of our previous grant, Promoting PLACE in Rural Schools

Promoting PLACE in Rural Schools

Promoting PLACE in Rural Schools was a six-year federally-funded research project. In fourteen rural districts across Virginia and Kentucky, we aimed to

  • Build sustainable gifted programs in rural schools
  • Increase the number of students identified for rural gifted programs through universal screening processes and local norms
  • Create a high-quality, place-based language arts curriculum
  • Increase student achievement in language arts
  • Increase student engagement and self-efficacy

The results were extremely encouraging all across the board. Not only were students identified through our alternative processes successful in gifted programs that used our place-based curriculum, they actually performed better than traditionally-identified students who did not use our curriculum on all our outcome measures.

You can read much more about the project in our research monograph, Gifted Education in Rural Schools: Developing Place-Based Interventions (2021).

Azano, A. P., Callahan, C. M., Bass, E., & Rasheed, M. C. (2020). Promising practices: Supporting gifted education in high poverty rural schools. Rural Educator, 41(2), 47-54.

Azano, A. P., Callahan, C. M., Brodersen, A., & Caughey, M. (2017). Responding to the challenges of gifted education in rural communities. Global Education Review, 4(1), 1-16.

Bass, E. L. (2019). Examining a Place-Based Curriculum for High-Performing Learners: A Place-Based, Critical, Dialogic Curriculum for High-Performing Rural Writers [Doctoral dissertation, Virginia Tech]. VTech Works.

Bass, E., Azano, A. P., & Callahan, C. M. (2020). A place for writing: Examining a place-based curriculum for high-performing rural writers. Theory & Practice in Rural Education, 10(2), 11-25.

Callahan, C. M., Azano, A. P., Park, S., Brodersen, A., Caughey, M., Bass, E., & Amspaugh, C. (2020). Validation of instruments for measuring affective outcomes in gifted education. Journal of Advanced Academics, 31(4), 470-505.

El-Abd, M., Callahan, C., & Azano, A. (2019). Predictive factors of literacy achievement in young gifted children in rural schools. Journal of Advanced Academics (published online first).  

Hemmler, V., Dmitrieva, S., Azano, A. P., & Callahan, C. M. (under review). Exploring representation of Black students in rural gifted education:Taking steps toward equity. Journal of Research in Rural Education.

Kuehl, R. (2020). Fourth-grade narrative fiction writing: Using content analysis to examine the intersection of place, high ability, and creativity [Doctoral dissertation, Virginia Tech]. VTechWorks.

Kuehl, R., Azano, A. P., & Callahan, C. M. (2020). Gifted rural writers explore place in narrative fiction stories. Theory & Practice in Rural Education, 10(2), 26–45.

Kuehl, R., Callahan, C. M., & Azano, A. P. (2021). The forgotten many: Rural gifted learners. In J. L. Nyberg & J. A. Manzone (Eds.), Creating equitable services for the gifted: Protocols for identification, implementation, and evaluation (pp. 150–170). IGI Global.

Rasheed, M. C. (2021). Learning in Place: Teachers’ Experiences with a Place-based Language Arts Curriculum in Rural Appalachia [Doctoral dissertation, Virginia Tech]. VTech Works.