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Report: Federal Funding Sharpens Focus on Rural Schools

Eighteen percent of the country's lowest-performing schools that will receive federal School Improvement Grant funds to help them improve are rural, according to analysis from Education Sector, a Washington think tank.

Although that's not equal to the country's overall percentage of rural schools—31 percent—the Education Sector analysis said these grant awards signal a shift in prioritizing high-poverty rural schools.

Rural schools can compete for School Improvement Grant funds, versus the typical formula-based distribution of federal money such as Title I. That formula often puts rural schools at a disadvantage, giving more federal funding to low-income students in larger, more-affluent districts than for similar students in smaller, poorer districts.

"While urban schools have greater access to programs like private foundation grants and urban-specific programs, rural schools, often located in the poorest school districts, lack the capacity and resources to tackle expensive large-scale school reform," according to the Education Sector report.

The analysis originally was published in April and was republished this summer in Technology and Learning magazine.

States were allowed to set federally-approved criteria to define their worst schools, and those schools then were sorted into tiers. All must either be receiving or eligible to receive Title I funds.

The analysis goes on to say that most of the School Improvement Grant recipients look similar to schools that typically receive federal dollars—large, low-performing schools in urban areas—but the report notes there is diversity of geography and enrollment among those schools.

If you're interested in learning more about School Improvement Grants, Education Sector has designed a tool to help the public follow the progress and money school by school.

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