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Rural Schools Often Ignored in Research and Policy Discussions

The poverty, inequity, and isolation that students in rural schools must cope with are often overlooked in education research and policy discussions, according to a new report from the National School Board Association's Center for Public Education.

The report argues that despite the fact that rural schools struggle with high and lows more commonly associated with urban schools—high rates of poverty, low literacy rates, and low college attendance rates among them—the needs of millions of students are often neglected. More than 9 million students attend rural K-12 schools in the United States, according to "Why Rural Matters," a 2017 report by the Rural School and Community Trust.

The deep dive from the Center for Public Education also highlights the fact that rural schools struggle to hire and train teachers and often have limited access to advanced coursework. A 2015 report by University of New Hampshire researchers found enrollment in Advanced Placement courses in rural districts lags behind the rates in suburban and urban school districts and, that even when those courses are available to rural students, they often have lower scores than their non-rural peers.

"The national conversation around education often neglects the perspectives, needs, and circumstances of rural America, despite high needs and widespread challenges," the report concludes. "Our continued failure to include the voices of this critical portion of the country undercuts our commitment to provide every student with the high-quality public education they deserve."

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The report offers recommendations to school board members and superintendents looking to address the challenges that cash- and resource-strapped rural schools face. To find solutions, the paper advises that rural schools find new ways to pool resources with neighboring districts, cultivate local and state policymakers as advocates, and start research partnerships with universities to identify the needs specific to their students and staff.

Here's a look at the report:

   Out of the Loop by corey_c_mitchell on Scribd

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Photo Credit: Children lie down during naptime at a preschool program in a building near a now-shuttered elementary school in rural northeast Arkansas. The parents of these children must decide in a year or two whether to put them on a school bus for the hourlong trip to schools in West Memphis, Ark., or move closer.

--Karen Pulfer Focht for Education Week
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