The American Council on Rural Special Education (ACRES) is a non-profit organization comprised of special educators, general educators, related service providers, administrators, teacher trainers, researchers, and parents who are committed to the enhancement of services to students and individuals living in rural America. ACRES was founded in 1981 by a group of individuals interested in the unique challenges of rural students and individuals needing special services. ACRES is the only national organization devoted entirely to special education issues that affect rural America. The membership of ACRES is geographically diverse, and is representative of all regions of the country. This fact is especially important since rural issues are not only different from urban issues, but also may vary among specific rural areas.
The members of ACRES strive to provide leadership and support that will enhance services for individuals with exceptional needs, their families, and the professionals who work with them, and for the rural communities in which they live and work.
GoalsThe American Council on Rural Special Education was founded to enhance services to students and individuals with disabilities living in rural areas by accomplishing the following goals:
- To promote the growth and development of each member of the organization.
- To foster quality education and services for individuals with exceptional needs living in rural America.
- To promote cultural diversity and the empowerment of minorities and members of traditionally under-represented groups in providing services to individuals with exceptional needs, their families, and service providers.
- To promote national recognition for rural special education, health, and human services.
- To promote collaborative partnerships with organizations interested in special education, health, and human services.
- To disseminate information concerning promising practices and research for improving education and services for individuals with disabilities living in rural America.
ACRES is governed by a Board of Directors, elected by the membership, which represents the full range of disciplines, professional positions, and geographic regions of the membership. In addition, several standing committees have been created to address specific issues and to further enhance the outreach goals of the organization. Furthermore, during the annual national conference, a general membership meeting is held to provide a forum for individuals to discuss issues related to the organization with the Board of Directors and other members.
The ACRES Annual National Conference, held in March, is the only national conference devoted entirely to rural special education issues. Topic strands include: administration, at-risk issues, collaborative education models, early childhood, gifted and talented, multicultural issues, parents and families, professional development, technology, transition, and related services. Additional information is provided on this website for the next ACRES conference.
ACRES maintains a publications program that shares cutting edge information and provides a forum for discussion of critical issues. Rural Special Education Quarterly, the only national refereed professional journal devoted to topics and issues directly relevant to rural special education and disability services, is a benefit of membership and is also available by subscription to agencies and libraries. ACRES Monographs, professional reference books by one or more authors published on a periodic basis, present a uniquely rural perspective on subjects of current interest to those living or working in rural areas, are made available to members at a discount s well as others in the field. Additional information is provided on this website under Publications.
Committee Structure and Function
ACRES has outlined in its official Bylaws a committee structure for efficient organizational operations. For more information, refer to the outline of the committee structure in that document.
Rural America offers unique and exciting challenges. The very nature of rural areas (e.g., sparse populations, tendencies toward professional isolation, remoteness from resources) makes it essential for rural educators, service providers, and parents to have an effective communication network. Rural areas thrive on warm personal relationships and close-knit communities. The American Council on Rural Special Education offers rural professionals and parents the opportunity to develop a “close-knit” rural organization at the national level. There is no longer any reason for those working in rural areas to be isolated. ACRES welcomes anyone who is concerned about individuals with exceptionalities or other special needs who live in rural areas.
Information and Advocacy
ACRES disseminates information not only though its conference and publications but also through RuraLink, a national email list that is made available to all individuals and agencies interested in rural special education topics and issues, The organization also prepares policy briefs for dissemination to national policy makers and collaborates with other professional organizations and advocacy groups to argue for or support legislation and regulations that are in the best interest of individual with exceptionalities, their families, the professionals who work with them, and the schools or agencies that offer services. Additional information is provided on this website under Advocacy.