Monday, November 27, 2023

The state of rural schools in post-pandemic America is an 'inflection point' for the nation

Data from a new report on rural student performance in grades K-12 show a student body with similar post-pandemic learning gaps when compared to their urban counterparts. The similarity is somewhat surprising since rural schools have fewer resources. Moreover, rural schools have outperformed more metro learners in specific key success measurements, a point that educators, government policymakers and politicians may want to consider, reports Libby Stanford of Education Week. The reports pulled together data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the Census Bureau to "chronicle the challenges and successes rural schools have faced since 2019."

Despite fewer resources, more rural high school students
graduated. (National Rural Education Association graph via EdWeek)
While one-third of U.S. schools are rural, Stanford reports, "Their students have less access to school counselors and psychologists, school transportation, and broadband internet, the report said. At the same time, rural students have higher graduation rates than their non-rural peers, and rural schools have smaller achievement gaps between students experiencing poverty and students not in poverty than their non-rural counterparts."

Rural students living at poverty levels outperform their
urban counterparts. (NREA graph via EdWeek)
The data can serve as a "wake-up call as policymakers alter funding formulas and make decisions about other resources for rural schools, the report's authors said during the National Forum to Advance Rural Education," according to Stanford. Bob Klein, who is the chair of the teaching, learning, and foundations department at Eastern Illinois University and one of the authors of the report, told Stanford: "We're told frequently that we're at an inflection point, be it an inflection point for inflation, or an inflection point for political coalitions, the structure of labor, the nature of work, and so on. . . . If that's true, then we're at a point of incredible importance to shape the future of the generation of rural students and the relationship to their communities and the nation more broadly."

The reports offers a deeper scope of comparisons and notes that mental health remains rural schools' biggest challenge. Read the full report here.

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