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More Research Urged on Rural Family-School Connection

A new empirical review of studies on family involvement and family-school partnerships in rural areas emphasizes the need for additional research on this issue.

Family-School Connections in Rural Educational Settings: A Systematic Review of the Empirical Literature, found only 18 studies relative to family-school partnerships in rural areas, and preliminary findings from those indicate that family-school connections may be important for better student results in rural areas. The study was published in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of the School Community Journal.

Its authors, Carrie A. Semke and Susan M. Sheridan, wrote that they were "cautiously optimistic" about the potential benefit of family-school partnerships in rural settings, but they also called for more high-quality research on this topic.

"It is essential that research in the area of rural family-school connections increase, particularly studies with a sound research design and deliberate intent to investigate rural phenomena," they wrote.

The problems they found across previous research included:
• A lack of a commonly accepted definition for "rural." There are at least three well-recognized federal definitions for what "rural" means.
• Most studies don't set out to answer a rural education question, which means they might use a rural sample but it's not the study's design to investigate a rural phenomenon.
• The majority of studies were descriptive vs. experimental and quasi-experimental studies.
• Research about family-school connections in rural education lacks a commonly accepted definition of what's involved in those family-school connection areas.

Rural advocates often talk about the lack of research on rural education issues, so it's not surprising that these researchers found that to be particularly true for the specific subject of family-school partnerships.

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