Allen Pratt is executive director of the National Rural Education Association (NREA), one of the most influential organizations on rural education issues in the United States. In this month’s questionnaire, we asked Pratt about NREA’s mission, the biggest issues facing rural education today, his favorite movie star, and his personal motto.

What is NREA’s mission?

The mission of NREA is to provide a unified national voice to address the needs and concerns of rural education and communities.

What are the three biggest issues in rural education today?

  • Teacher shortages in high-need areas for students
  • Equity in educational funding and policies
  • Access for all students to high-quality education

What can rural principals do to improve rural education?

Principals must connect with other rural leaders to share ideas and best practices. The idea of consortia or collaboratives must be both virtual and face-to-face.

What are successful techniques for dealing with the shortage of rural teachers? 

Rural districts must use a grow-your-own model. Local universities create pathways to help rural communities.

What’s the most exciting thing happening in rural education today?

There is an increased focus on rural issues, and there is momentum in the national spotlight. There is also a focus on rural communities and workforce alignment.

What is your favorite book and why?

The Boys in the Boat. Against the grim backdrop of the Great Depression, they reaffirmed the American notion that merit, in the end, outweighs birthright. They reminded the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together.

Who is your favorite movie star?

Kurt Russell, who starred in Tombstone.

What’s your favorite sports team?

Chicago Cubs.

What’s your hobby?

Working outside on my house built in 1918.

What’s your motto?

Attitude is everything—a positive attitude will take you to great places!