Thursday, February 07, 2008

Rural schools are diverse, complicated and growing

Stereotypes and misconceptions abound when it comes to rural areas, and to rural schools. It's time politicians and pundits stop listening to generalizations and learn the complicated truth about rural schools and the issues they face, writes Rachel Tompkins, the president of The Rural School and Community Trust.

Tompkins' editorial, "Rural Schools: Growing, Diverse, and ... Complicated," first appeared in the Jan. 16 edition of Education Week. It seeks to dismiss notions that rural education means "white, well-off, withering away, and wonderfully simple.”

Citing information that has appeared here and here, she points out that rural schools grew at a rate of 15 percent between 2003 and 2005, that 23 percent of rural students are members of minority groups, and that almost half of English-language learners are in rural schools. She recalls the 1960 presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy in her native West Virginia, and she says that if today's candidates spent more time in rural areas "they would get an earful" about education. She hopes that would motivate them to start addressing the problems that arise because the poorest rural students go to school in the poorest states. (Read more)

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