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Rural Charter School Challenges Highlighted in Michigan

Rural charter schools, which account for 16 percent of charter schools nationwide, often face unique challenges similar to those of traditional rural public schools.

Many of those challenges were highlighted in a recent article by Bridge Michigan, which focused on the factors that led to the closing of a charter school in Michigan this year. The school, which served mostly rural, low-income students, closed due to declining enrollment and the lack of "a quality education program," according to a statement from Central Michigan University, the charter school's authorizer. 

Since 1997, the charter school has served students in kindergarten through 5th grade from several counties that have increasing poverty rates. About a third of the school's students were classified as homeless, and 10 percent lived with grandparents. The former principal of the charter school, Victoria Simon, told Bridge Michigan that those factors and chaotic home environments contributed to learning challenges, and made it more difficult to make dramatic academic improvement.  

A May Education Week article further explored the challenges of rural charter schools and found that the charters often lack suitable facilities, have fewer students and teachers to pull from, and have smaller budgets. Like rural schools, rural charters often have less access to support services than urban schools and face "particularly tense relationships with their local school districts as they compete for limited resources and relatively few students." Rural schools across the country are dealing with declining enrollments, a problem which has forced many schools to close, while other have tried to share teachers or experiment with distance learning.

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