Though less than a fourth of Americans are now classified as rural, Department of Education data shows that over a third of U.S. public schools are in rural areas and they have about a fourth of the nation's students. But those numbers mean rural schools tend to have fewer students, and funding usually depends upon enrollment numbers. And low funding can mean low pay that complicates teacher recruitment and retention.
On the other hand, "One of the advantages of a rural area, is that everybody knows everybody and helps support everybody," Greg Ray, superintendent of the Mediapolis School District in southeast Iowa, told Holland. While the district has too few students to have a class in Chinese, Ray found a local Chinese native to teach an online course for it and other small districts.
Despite their challenges, Holland reports that rural high schools match the graduation rates of suburban high schools. Kris Amundson of Education Sector, a nonprofit that says it is working to change education policy to benefit students, told Holland that high graduation rates in rural areas are due largely to a "tremendous commitment" from the community to encourage students to get through high school. But that doesn't necessarily mean more rural kids are going to college, Amundson said. Only 17 percent of adults in rural areas have a college degree. Holland reports that students with college-educated parents are more likely to attend college themselves. (Read more)