This article describes the approach of a five-year initiative, funded by the National Science Foundation, to improve the teaching of mathematics and science in 10 rural school districts of Missouri. Traditional challenges of improving the professional practice of teachers are addressed through a regional partnership. External project evaluation results reveal specific teacher challenges, the change strategy of the Ozark Rural Systemic Initiative (ORSI), and what teachers value most. Continuous, regional content-specific professional development; follow-up technical assistance to schools; administrative walk-throughs; assistance of lead teachers; and external evaluation reinforce that what counts most are effective teaching practices in classrooms with students. School district leadership and regional partners will be the key to continued success and long-term sustainability of the evolving learning communities and new teaching practices in schools.

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