Although only about 200 one-room schoolhouses still exist in rural America, the unique model of the schools holds important lessons for schools and teachers across the country, some of which are highlighted in this recent story by CBS News.
The story features two one-room schoolhouses, in Michigan and Montana, where teachers teach students of all ages in the same room. A single teacher is often the only staff member at the respective schools, which means they take on multiple roles, including guidance counselor and principal. One teacher featured in the story said the situation forces her to be self-sufficient and solve problems that in other schools may be passed off to another staff member. Teachers also must adjust teaching styles for each student, which for one teacher means writing individual lesson plans.
The schools also encourage student collaboration and use older students to help younger students with the content. Students in younger grades are often exposed to more rigorous lessons early on since they can hear what is being taught to older children. Teachers say that because they stay with the students for multiple grades, they have deeper knowledge of and investment in those children.
In the early 1900’s, as many as 200,000 one-room schoolhouses existed, nearly half of which were in the Great Plains and the Midwest. In some states, like Mississippi, more than 1,400 of the schools existed as recently as 1951, nearly all of which taught black students who were kept out of other public schools. In recent years, many of the remaining one-room schoolhouses nationwide have been forced to close. In 2006, NPR profiled several one-room schoolhouses that were on the brink of closing due to low student enrollment or attempts to save money. At that time, NPR reported that there were fewer than 400 of the schoolhouses left in the country.
For more on the CBS piece, check out Mark Walsh’s Education and the Media blog.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.