Community Schools Can Improve Rural Education

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The Rural Solution: How Community Schools Can Reinvigorate Rural Education

Center for American Progress

For the one in five students in the United States who attend a rural public elementary or secondary school, a variety of factors may affect their academic achievement, including funding shortages, teacher shortages and an inability to cater to youth with special needs. This report says rural schools need to incorporate a “full-service community” approach in order to provide their students with the tools to be successful.

While schools in rural areas differ in key ways (especially by economic conditions), the report says that some guidelines can be followed to overcome challenges through the development of community-based school models. This joint effort to provide academic, social and health services to students and families creates “results-focused partnerships [that] are based on identified needs and organized around a set of mutually defined results and outcomes.” The authors say the model promotes academic success, strengthens family involvement in the educational experience, and ensures better management of school resources and funding.

The study cites three examples of rural schools where the community model has been effective. At Owsley Elementary in Booneville, Ken., parents logged over 2,000 volunteer hours in the 2008-2009 academic year, taking a more active role in a school community that also helps families with clothing, food and transportation. Molly Stark Elementary School in Bennington, Vt., and Noble High School in North Berwick, Maine, have vastly increased the health services available to their students at lower costs.

In order to implement and sustain the community-based model in rural schools, the authors say,  community leaders must develop new teacher recruitment strategies, promote parental engagement and lobby for federal and state funds.

Free, 44 pages. http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/09/pdf/ruralschools.pdf.