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Rural Students Held Back by Lack of Rigorous Courses, Report Says

Students in rural high schools across the nation are less likely to have access to and take rigorous courses than their non-rural peers, which ultimately impacts their postsecondary enrollment and success, according to a new report.

The Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho examined data on high school courses for "How Variations in High School Graduation Plans Impact Rural Students." The report found that, overall, rural students lag behind their non-rural peers in enrollment in advanced math, Algebra II, and Calculus. Rural students also lagged their suburban and urban peers in enrolling in upper level math courses not required for graduation, like trigonometry, and also had slightly lower scores on the ACT exam. Researchers concluded that by completing less-rigorous coursework, rural students are less prepared for college, and are less likely to attend and persist in college. 

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 4.01.49 PM.pngIn an attempt to determine if rural students are graduating through less-rigorous routes than their peers, researchers also looked at the rigor of graduation requirements. Although data were limited, the report found that in Virginia, one of two states with multiple diploma tracks that provides data broken on a district level, a higher percentage of rural students graduate with the state's standard diploma than non-rural students. The standard diploma includes less-rigorous courses than the state's advanced diploma track.

To improve outcomes for rural students, the report's authors recommended that states, districts, and schools boost access to a rigorous curriculum in all high schools and increase rigor in graduation rates. Researchers also suggested that rural districts and states ramp up college counseling to ensure that rural students are prepared and informed for college.

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