Enrollment in rural schools is growing faster than in cities and suburbs, and rural students are becoming poorer and more racially diverse, a report says.
The report is the latest in a biennial series on the state of the nation’s rural schools released by the Rural School and Community Trust, a nonprofit rural education advocacy group in Washington. Based on 2008-09 figures, the 11.4 million students in rural schools or districts make up 23 percent of the nation’s public school enrollment, it says. Rural districts saw a 22 percent increase in enrollment over a 10-year period, compared with a 1.7 percent increase in nonrural areas.
The analysis also finds that, among students in rural districts, an average of two in five live in poverty, and one in four is a member of a racial minority.
The report also ranks each state on a “rural education priority” scale; the higher the ranking, the more important and challenging rural education is to a state’s overall education system. The five states topping the list of highest-priority states are Mississippi, Alabama, Arizona, South Carolina, and Louisiana. Those states’ rankings changed little from the 2009 report, and those regional areas have the clearest need for policymaker attention to rural education, according to the authors.
Some other statistics on rural schools cited in the report include:
• High school graduation rate, at 77.5 percent;
• Percentage change in enrollment of Hispanic students, which grew by 150.9 percent from 1993-94 to 2008-09;
• Percentage increase in the share of students in poverty, which was 9.8 percent higher in 2008-09 than in 1993-94;
• Percentage of students in poverty—41 percent; and
• Percentage of students in special education, which averages 12.1 percent and ranges to as high as 17 percent in Kentucky.
A version of this article appeared in the January 18, 2012 edition of Education Week as Study Tracks a Rise in Rural Enrollment