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Rural News Round-Up: Worries About Exit Exams, Child Poverty Increases

Worries about graduation
Oklahoma high school seniors have to pass exit exams this year to earn their diplomas, and some rural educators are worried about students who can't, according to an article in the Tulsa World based in Tulsa, Okla.

Neil Morton, director of the Cherokee Nation's education department, told a group of rural educators recently that "many students are not test-takers, so we relegate them to second- or third-class status on the basis of one test."

The state changed its graduation requirements in 2005, and the class of 2012 is the first to have to pass at least four of seven end-of-instruction exams to receive a diploma. State officials estimate 84 percent of students had done so by November, but some rural educators are concerned about their students who haven't.

"We strive for academic rigor every day in our classrooms," said one superintendent in the story. "Oklahoma is withholding a diploma from those who need it the most. This law was designed to punish those who fail to pass. We are committing our children to purgatory."

Child poverty increases
The child poverty rates for rural counties didn't have the biggest increase between 2000 and 2010, but the rates remained the largest for those areas, according to an analysis by Roberto Gallardo, an assistant extension professor and economic development specialist at the Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University.

The figures published on The Daily Yonder, a news site published by the Center for Rural Strategies, showed the child poverty rates for rural areas grew 6 percentage points during that decade, which is less than the 6.6 percentage point jump for small cities. Still, rural areas have 27.2 percent of children living in poverty, which is higher than the national average of 21.6 percent.

Gallardo's report goes on to show the areas of the country that saw the smallest and biggest changes, and he also gives a list of the 25 counties with the highest child poverty rates in 2010. The first three are in Mississippi; rural Humphreys County in Mississippi, which is about 75 miles from Jackson, topped the list with 61.1 percent of its children living in poverty.

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