School & District Management

Long Bus Rides Said To Hurt Rural Achievement

By Alan Richard — September 12, 2001 1 min read
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Bus rides for many rural schoolchildren are long and rough—and they are worse for students from poorer families, a report released last week says.

“The Rural School Bus Ride in Five States” includes results from surveys of nearly 700 elementary school principals in Arkansas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and Washington state.

Read the report, “The Rural School Bus Ride in Five States,” Aug. 20, 2001.

The report was co-written and researched by Craig Howley, the director of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools, and his wife, Aimee Howley, the chairwoman of the education studies department at Ohio University in Athens. It was written for the Rural School and Community Trust, a Washington-based advocacy organization for rural schools.

Bus rides of 30 minutes or longer are 75 percent more common in largely poor rural communities, compared with more affluent rural communities, the researchers found. One in four rural schools reported bus rides of an hour or longer, and said that many drivers lack emergency training and ways to communicate with their bases.

A surprising finding, the Howleys say, is that bus rides, on average, were longer for rural white schoolchildren than for rural minority students.

The study says consolidation of rural districts could result in longer bus rides for children, negatively affecting their ability to learn.

“Rural kids are put at a disadvantage across the board,” Ms. Howley said.

The study follows a similar one presented by the couple in April, written for the Rural School and Community Trust and the Charleston, W.Va.-based Appalachian Regional Educational Laboratory, showing that rural children faced significantly longer school bus rides than suburban students did.

The results suggest that more research needs to be done on how American schools define community schooling, Mr. Howley said, and on how close to home schools should be.

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