• • Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho •

If America Neglects Its Rural Schools, Nobody Wins

From Real Clear Education
Paul Hill

Moderate investments of time, money, and thought could unlock the potential of millions of students growing up, but it’s essentially going nowhere in rural areas.

Rural K-12 schools face unique challenges brought on by isolation, limited access to qualified faculty, declining economic bases, and community conflict over taxation and funding. Many face sudden changes in student population – declines in some places and rapid increases in others, the latter often due to influxes of children from former migrant worker families.

State and federal policies on school fundingand operation also pose challenges, as they often require bureaucratic capacities that small rural districts can’t and shouldn’t have. Categorical funding programs often force schools to spend money in ways that don’t fit rural needs. Rigid state teacher salary schedules make it difficult for rural schools to compete for talent.

Faced with these challenges, rural education leaders need to be nimble, imaginative and resourceful. Some display great imagination but others can be overwhelmed.

These are just a few of the conclusions from two years’ work by The Rural Opportunities Consortium Idaho, a task force of scholars and policy experts.  Sponsored by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation of Boise, ROCI studied the challenges faced by rural K-12 schools and the difficulties rural students face in entering and completing college. Rural students nationally are more likely to complete high school, but far less likely to enter college than demographically similar urban students; those rural students who entered enter college are also much less likely to finish.

In its first year, ROCI focused on K-12 schools; its second year emphasized the factors affecting college success. It ended with definite ideas and practical steps on how Idaho (and other states with large rural populations) can strengthen rural schools and how to improve rural kids’ access to college degrees.

Read more here.


Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho to Host Education Event in Boise

(Boise) — The Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho (ROCI) will facilitate “EdScape: An In-Depth Look at the Education Landscape in Idaho” Dec. 7 and 8 in Boise.

The event will provide an opportunity for education leaders in Idaho to engage with experts from across the country and explore potential solutions to the state’s most pressing education issues like expanding teacher pipelines, new school models, and the high-school-to-college transition.

Presenters will include national and local researchers and practitioners. National experts will lend their experience analyzing and implementing education reform initiatives from across the country, while local experts and practitioners will provide local context and insight.

To facilitate a meeting environment hospitable to open dialogue, questioning, and discussion, media are asked to observe the Chatham House Rule and not attribute any statements to any specific attendee.

For additional details, contact Juliet Squire at juliet.squire@bellwethereducation.org.

Are Rural High Schools Short-changing Graduates?

From Ahead of the Heard
Jennifer Schiess

A paradox is at work in rural America.

On the one hand, students in rural schools demonstrate high levels of academic achievement. A higher percentage of students in rural schools achieve proficiency in both math and reading on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) than urban or suburban students. And high schools in rural communities post among the highest graduation rates. On the other hand, graduates from rural high schools are less likely to pursue post-secondary education than their non-rural peers, and rural parts of the country have lower educational attainment levels overall.

With over 65 percent of jobs projected to require some type of post-secondary education in a few short years, ensuring that rural graduates access and complete post-secondary training is critical. So why aren’t rural students going on to college?

Certainly multiple factors contribute to any student’s decision about pursuing post-secondary education regardless of where they live—financial concerns and family factors among them. And these factors are all at play in rural communities. But given the systematic difference in achievement data and graduation rates among rural schools, is there also something systematic about the fall off in post-secondary pursuits among their graduates? And if so, what role can public policy play in addressing it?

In a new paper released by the Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho (ROCI), an effort by the JA and Kathryn Albertson Foundation to bring attention and apply rigorous new research efforts to rural education, we aim to address the first question by asking whether the level of rigor in high school academics differs between rural and non-rural high schools. Rigor in high school coursework is the strongest predictor of post-secondary success, eclipsing even external factors like income and other student background characteristics. And while data limitations prevent us from drawing firm conclusions, all the data we analyzed point in the same direction—that rural students may, in fact, experience less rigor in high school.

Read more here.