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Make Rural Schools a Priority

Make Rural Schools a Priority

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Jeremy Ayers offers recommendations for improving rural education in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Jeremy Ayers offers recommendations for improving rural education in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

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Published by: Center for American Progress on Aug 05, 2011
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1Center or American Progress | Make Rural Schools a Priority
Make Rural Schools a Priority
Considerations for Reauthorizing the Elementaryand Secondary Education Act
Jeremy Ayers August 2011
Introduction and summary
Te public usually hinks o large urban schools when i considers reorms o he American educaion sysem. Bu rural sudens accoun or a large and growing segmeno he school-age populaion, and heir needs have oo oen been overlooked in schoolimprovemen eors. Policymakers and he public mus make rural educaion a prioriy i he naion as a whole is o make marked gains in suden oucomes.One in ve sudens atends a rural school, and more han hal o all school disrics andone-hird o all public schools are in rural areas.
Rural suden enrollmen grew 15 per-cen beween 2002 and 2005, an increase o 1.3 million sudens. Ta compares o only 1 percen growh in naionwide enrollmen during he same ime period.
Deniions o “rural” vary. Te U.S. Census Bureau denes rural areas by heirgeographic disance rom urban ceners, and as communiies ha conain ewer han2,500 people.
Te Deparmen o Educaion denes rural
as hose locaed indisrics wih ewer han 600 sudens.
Some rural educaion advocaes ideniy ruralschools as hose residing in communiies wih ewer han 2,500 residens, ollowinghe Census classicaion, bu also argue or including schools in owns up o 25,000people.
Te exac deniion maters less han he realizaion ha a large numbero rural schools exis and ace unique challenges and opporuniies. Ten here are“ronier” schools ha may have only dozens o sudens, locaed in very remoe orisolaed pars o he counry such as Alaska, Appalachia, he prairies o he Plainssaes, and he Mounain Wes.Many rural areas o he counry conain concenraed povery, jus as urban areas do.
 Rural schools ace paricular diculy in recruiing and reaining eachers and prin-cipals. Rural schools coninue o lag behind ohers in Inerne access, and rural highschools are no able o provide advanced coursework such as AP and IB classes in he way more urban and suburban areas can.
Research on rural educaion has, a imes,
2Center or American Progress | Make Rural Schools a Priority
 been underunded or no encouraged.
And, overall, rural areas have experiencedshrinking ax bases, shiing local economies, and brain drain among young people whomove o more urban areas aer high school graduaion.
  A he same ime, rural schools possess unique srenghs and opporuniies. Tey usually enjoy srong communiy suppor, including opporuniies or sudens oconnec direcly wih uure employers. Oen, rural schools are a he oreron inusing disance echnology o provide educaional services.Unorunaely, ederal educaion eors do no always consider he issues o ruralsudens and schools in ways hey could, despie heir unique challenges. A ew examples sand ou.
ile I o he Elemenary and Secondary Educaion Ac, or ESEA, is he largesederal unding sream designed o suppor educaional services or schools wih con-cenraions o low-income sudens. wo o ile I’s our complex ormulas, however,unairly seer more unds o large disrics, despie some disrics’ comparaively lowerconcenraion o povery.
And some evidence exiss ha rural high schools receiveless unding han high schools in suburban or urban areas due o he ways in which highschools can be unded in ile I allocaions.
Competitive grants.
Some ederal educaion programs are compeiive grans designedo reward saes and disrics ha bes mee esablished crieria. Compeiive unds canencourage reorm and reward granees who make valuable changes. Bu some compei-ive grans may make i more dicul or rural disrics o compee. For example, hers round o he Invesing in Innovaion Fund compeiion asked applicans o dem-onsrae how much heir innovaive pracices would cos o scale up o serve 100,000 o500,000 o 1 million sudens.
Rural disrics—and even whole saes—do no havehis many sudens, capaciy o serve hem i hey did, or abiliy o esimae such a cosin heir rural conex. For example, Monana only has 140,000 sudens saewide. Plus,or any compeiion, many rural disrics call on he principal or superinenden o wriea gran applicaion while large disrics may have he resources o employ ull-ime gran wriers. Tereore, i may make sense o ake his ino accoun when reviewing granapplicaions rom rural disrics.
 Congress has he opporuniy o move orward on educaion reorm by reauhorizingESEA o ensure all children achieve heir greaes poenial. ESEA is he larges andmos signican ederal educaion law supporing public schools. Te law, currenly known as No Child Le Behind, was due o be reauhorized in 2007. Congress now has he opporuniy o x numerous faws in NCLB and o ensure he needs o ruralsudens and schools are me.
3Center or American Progress | Make Rural Schools a Priority
Congress should keep he ollowing consideraions in mind so ha ederal educaionlaw beter addresses he needs o rural sudens and schools:1. Ensure rural schools and disrics have air chances o receive and compee or ederaleducaion unds2. Make school-based wraparound services available o rural sudens in recogniion o he special circumsances and someimes limied capaciy o rural schools3. Ensure opions are available o rural disrics or he successul urnaround o low-perorming schools4. Enhance suppors or building he eacher and principal workorce or rural schoolsTese poins are by no means exhausive. Ohers have done imporan work on how oimprove rural educaion. We oer here a ew key consideraions or how a new ESEA can improve he way ederal programs and policies serve rural ineress.
Make federal education funding more fair and efficient for rural students
ile I, Par A o ESEA, is he larges program operaed by he U.S. Deparmen o Educaion. Congress appropriaed $14.46 billion or ile I in scal year 2011. Teprogram reaches 95 percen o school disrics naionwide, and is goal is o helpdisrics wih concenraions o children rom low-income amilies o expand andimprove heir educaional programs. Over ime, ile I’s goal has evolved o ensurean equiable educaion or disadvanaged sudens and o bolser economic compei-iveness by promoing higher academic achievemen. Ye, ile I has some glaringproblems. Due o cumbersome allocaion ormulas, some saes and disrics receivea disproporionae amoun o money while ohers do no receive heir air share. Teresul is ha small disrics and hose serving medium-sized ciies, including many serving high concenraions o povery, receive less proporional unding han dis-rics wih larger numbers o sudens.
Federal recommendation
Congress should streamline the four Title I formulas into a single, fairer formula.
Te Deparmen o Educaion applies our ormulas o deermine ile I grans odisrics: Basic, Concenraion, argeed, and Educaion Incenive Finance Grans.Because he ormulas are needlessly complex, sae agencies exhaus capaciy re-calculaing grans o disrics ha remain oblivious o he number o ormulas.Tereore, we propose consolidaing he our ile I ormulas ino one.

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