The Problems of Rural Schools and Dropout
“Rural Students at Risk in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas,” Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (1995).
This article cites a report which found that children in rural areas are more likely than city youth to be victims of child abuse, neglect, crime and substance abuse. It argues that we should be focusing on the rural population as diligently as other groups since almost a quarter of school-aged children attend school and live in rural areas. Many rural students face lower educational achievement and reduced academic expectations correlated with demographic factors. Like urban youth, rural youth are more likely to live in a single-parent household, have low socioeconomic status, have limited English proficiency, and have parents with low education attainment. Other factors placing students in at-risk categories include moving frequently, psychosocial factors, homelessness, and lack of transportation. At risk students are frequently given less attention in class, seated further away from the teacher, suspended more frequently, given less praise and encouragement, and not given responsibilities. Rural schools are also less equipped with human, financial and community resources than their urban counterparts.
The article finds that although the average high school dropout rate for rural schools is lower than central cities and higher than suburban areas, average post-secondary education continuation rates are lower for rural students than for their metropolitan counterparts. Students in relatively isolated communities are placed at higher risk because of various direct effects of the isolation (e.g., fewer human services, fewer cultural amenities, lack of cultural diversity, lack of exposure to career options and opportunities, etc.). Lower student aspirations appear to be more prominent in rural communities than in other settings. The article suggests creaing legislation and programs that develop a comprehensive plan for alleviating the rural schools problem. It should seek to handle student’s needs individually and attentively, build relationships with the community and families (universities, other school districts, regional mentoring/tutoring programs, etc.), build student-faculty relations to encourage a sense of belonging and commitment to school, develop challenging and beneficial programs, and invest in technology.
Southwest Educational Development Laboratory