Meeting the Challenge for Missouri’s Rural Districts and Students

William Woods EDU

Anyone interested in a career as a school administrator faces the reality that not all school districts are alike. Districts vary by size, student make up, funding and location.

In recognition of the National PTA designation of June as the Month of the Rural Child, we will take a look over the next few blog posts at the challenges and opportunities of leading rural school districts.

A good place to start is an understanding of what qualifies as a rural school district.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) revised its definitions of school locale types in 2006 and came up with four major locale categories—city, suburban, town, and rural—each of which is divided into three subcategories. Cities and suburbs are subdivided into the categories small, midsize, or large; towns and rural areas are subdivided by their proximity to an urbanized area into the categories fringe, distant, or remote.

More schools can be found in rural districts, but more students can be found in cities and suburbs. About one-third of the approximately 100,000 public schools in the United States in 2010-11 were located in rural areas (32,000), more than in suburbs (27,000), cities (26,000), or towns (14,000). Fewer students, however, were enrolled in public schools in rural areas than in suburbs and cities. Public schools in rural areas enrolled 12 million students, representing 24 percent of total enrollment, compared with 17 million in suburban areas (34 percent of enrollment) and 14 million in cities (29 percent of enrollment).

Relative to the rest of the country, Missouri has a fairly high concentration of rural districts. The Rural School and Community Trust produces a detailed report every two years on conditions of rural education in each of the 50 states. The latest, Why Rural Matters 2013-14, ranks Missouri 16th in terms of states with the highest need to focus on helping rural districts and students.

Issues specific to rural districts touch students enrolled in any of the William Woods University School of Education leadership programs: Doctorate in Educational Leadership (EdD), Education Specialist in Administration Degree, Master of Education (MEd) in Administration and the Master of Education (MEd) in Athletics / Activities Administration.

In our next post, we will look at the range of organizations researching and advocating on behalf of rural districts and students.

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