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Rural School District Beats State Average, Explains Success

One of our Rural Education blog readers saw this article in the June issue of the American School Board Journal and passed it our way.

The journal featured three school systems that were diverse in size, demographics, and affluence, and it described how each turned around student achievement.

Rural schools got some love, with one of the stories featuring Skidmore-Tynan Independent School District, a rural district about 50 miles north of Corpus Christi. Its three schools enroll fewer than 800 students, and about 65 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. The high school has one counselor, and none of its schools have assistant principals.

Despite its lack of resources, the overall district and its elementary and high schools received the highest possible rating of "exemplary" for student achievement from the Texas Education Agency. The "exemplary" rating meant their scores beat the state average, as did those at the junior high, which received the next best rating of "recognized."

The article points out that some of the reforms being attempted nationally, such as multi-age classrooms and students staying with the same teacher year after year, have a history in rural schools, and rural schools' personalized learning environments and status as community centers are good models for others to follow.

The article goes on to detail how this small district improved student performance, primarily by replacing principals, starting after-school tutorial programs for children who failed a unit or who didn't learn required material, increasing structure (high schoolers were forbidden to leave campus at lunch), and encouraging dual-credit courses.

My favorite quote in the story came from Patricia Holubec, principal of Skidmore-Tynan High School:

"It doesn't matter how much you have," Holubec says, referring to her more disadvantaged students. "It's how you use what you are given."

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