School & District Management

Rural Schools Increasingly Diverse, Low-Income

By Jackie Mader — May 19, 2014 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The nation’s rural schools are growing in enrollment and serving increasing numbers of low-income, minority, and special education students, according to a new report released Monday.

Why Rural Matters,” the seventh biennial report by the Rural School and Community Trust, examined education, socioeconomic factors, funding, and policy data from each state during the 2010-11 school year.

Nationwide, enrollment in rural schools is growing faster than in non-rural districts, which the report notes has been a consistent trend for years. More than 20 percent of children in the country are enrolled in rural schools, and nearly one-third of all public schools are classified as rural, although percentages vary greatly by state. In Montana, more than 75 percent of all schools are rural, compared to less than 7 percent in Massachusetts.

Between the 2008-09 and 2010-11 school years, the percentage of rural students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch increased by five percentage points to about 47 percent. During that time, the percentage of rural minority students also increased slightly, from about 26 percent to nearly 27 percent.

Daniel Showalter, one of the report’s researchers, said what’s most notable about the increasing enrollment is that minority students account for nearly 93 percent of the total new rural student population. “The white rural population is basically remaining stable,” Showalter said. “But the minority population is rapidly expanding.”

The authors of the report concluded that these numbers make it even more important for policymakers to pay attention to rural schools and their populations, as well as “what those challenges mean to state and national goals of improving achievement and narrowing achievement gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged groups.”

Robert Mahaffey, the spokesman for the Rural School and Community Trust, said it’s also important to examine funding formulas, resources, and teacher development as rural schools serve more diverse and low-income students. “When we focus on resources for rural places, we don’t just talk about money,” Mahaffey said. “We talk about professional-development supports...mentoring for teachers. There’s a human capital piece of this as well.”

As in previous years, the report ranked states on a “rural education priority” scale. Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Arizona were the top five priority states this year, which the report’s authors define as the states that have the greatest need “for policymakers to address rural education issues.” The report also offers a wealth of state-by-state data on rural student demographics, spending, and educational outcomes, as well as a new brief section on early-childhood education in rural areas.

Other data from the report:

- The amount of rural per-pupil funding has increased since the last report, from about $5,600 to more than $5,800.

- About 3 percent of rural students are English-language learners and 13 percent qualify for special education.

- More than two in five rural students live in poverty and one in eight has changed residence in the previous year.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Letter to the Editor School Mask Mandates: Pandemic, ‘Panicdemic,’ or Personal?
"A pandemic is based on facts. A 'panicdemic' is based on fears. Today, we have both," writes a professor.
1 min read
School & District Management How 'Vaccine Discrimination' Laws Make It Harder for Schools to Limit COVID Spread
In Montana and Ohio, the unvaccinated are a protected class, making it tough to track and contain outbreaks, school leaders say.
4 min read
Principal and District Superintendent Bonnie Lower takes the temperature of a student at Willow Creek School as the school reopened, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Willow Creek, Mont.
Bonnie Lower, a principal and district superintendent in Willow Creek, Mont., checks the temperature of a student as Willow Creek School reopened for in-person instruction in the spring.
Ryan Berry/Bozeman Daily Chronicle via AP
School & District Management Opinion 'Futures Thinking' Can Help Schools Plan for the Next Pandemic
Rethinking the use of time and place for teachers and students, taking risks, and having a sound family-engagement plan also would help.
17 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
School & District Management Opinion The Consequence of Public-Health Officials Racing to Shutter Schools
Public-health officials' lack of concern for the risks of closing schools may shed light on Americans' reticence to embrace their directives.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty