Rick Dalton’s “ Rural America’s Pathways To College And Careers “ is a terrific guidebook for folks who want a useful roadmap to improving student success in rural schools or frankly, any school. As someone who has worked as a teacher, principal, and superintendent for decades in rural schools, I think I know the difference between rhetoric and reality. Dalton has it right. He clearly understands and describes the unique rural challenges of educating children in communities often beset with poverty, drug addiction, lack of broadband, and families who often distrust higher education.

Dalton’s timely research reports, relevant case studies, and most importantly his practical approaches to improvement make this work a must read, must do guide. For example, he suggests a district’ s success for its’ students resides with providing them mentoring, pathways, and essential skills. He offers more than a rationale for these three but a set of strategies and tactics that could be used in their entirety or adapted to where you are in your journey.

Perhaps more than anything, this engaging read offers ways to change mindsets, practices, and ultimately cultures to truly transform schools. Included are salient thoughts about building productive partnerships and on line pedagogy. My acid test in reviewing school improvement approaches has often been to ask myself these two questions: (1) Does the author know what he or she is talking about based on clear evidence and consistent with my practical experience? (2) Would I really use any of these approaches or tactics in my school district? The answer in the case of this book is YES. YES.

The six essential skills presented that students really need for a successful college experience or career are those needed for life. He explains the six ( goal setting, teamwork, leadership, networking, perseverance, and agility ) essential skills, why they matter and how to teach them to students so they stick. He offers countless stories of people from ideas he presents to provide context. Approaches he suggests include why, how, and examples to round out your understanding.

Lastly, this book offers real hope. Leaders who embrace, adopt, and amplify ideas Rick Dalton presents will most likely see improved results and opportunities for their kids. This is a guidebook you can USE! I recommend it to those community, business, and school leaders who want changes that can make a difference for kids.

Jim Mahoney, PhD.
Executive in Residence
Ohio University