Rural schools need more federal attention

“This requires both a careful analysis of how current policies are [affecting] rural high schools and a willingness to explore innovative new options that address existing policy gaps on both the national and local levels,” states the report, especially “…as Congress prepares to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.”

AEE hopes that federal policy solutions will address these key questions:

• What lessons can federal policy makers learn from exemplary rural high schools—for example, advantages of strong teacher-student ratios and personalization of instruction—that can be applied to reform efforts in urban and suburban high schools?

• What federal policies and funding practices are necessary to support the preparation of rural high school and district leaders who can collaborate effectively with the community in offering all students excellent teaching and learning opportunities?

• How can federal policies encourage the creation and analysis of national databases with information relevant to high schools and communities in rural America and disseminate results, especially for access by educational practitioners and stakeholders in isolated rural areas?

John Hill, executive director of the National Rural Education Association, said there are some deeper questions policy makers need to consider as well.

Ensuring that policy makers define goals, concentrate on 21st-century skills, and understand how to motivate educators and students is essential, Hill said.

“Do current Title I procedures level the playing field? How can we get broadband not only in schools, but also in homes? Should we add or raise the cap to e-Rate for broadband in homes?” Hill said. “These are the deeper questions federal policy makers should be asking.”

A guide for communities

In its pamphlet, “Is Your Local High School Making the Grade? Ten Elements of Successful High Schools: A Guide for Rural Communities,” AEE suggests how community members might begin thinking about whether their local high school is adequately preparing all of its students for a successful future.

According to AEE, the 10 elements that every rural high school should have in place are:

  1. A college- and work-ready curriculum for all students;
  2. Personal attention for all students;
  3. Extra help for those who need it;
  4. Bringing the real world into the classroom;
  5. Family and community involvement;
  6. A safe learning environment;
  7. Skilled teachers;
  8. Strong school leaders;
  9. Necessary resources; and
  10. User-friendly information for parents and the community.

“There is a limited window of opportunity at the federal level to achieve critical policy changes that will truly lead to every child graduating from high school ready for college and ready for a career,” said Wise. “Addressing the challenges and conditions for rural schools described in this paper must be part of the solution.”


“Current Challenges and Opportunities in Preparing Rural High School Students for Success in College and Careers: What Federal Policymakers Need to Know” report (PDF)

“Is Your Local High School Making the Grade” pamphlet (PDF)

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the Next Generation Collaboration resource center. The ability to work together on group projects is seen as an increasingly important skill for the 21st-century workplace, and a growing number of schools are rewriting their curriculum to include opportunities for such collaboration as a result. Go to:

Next Generation Collaboration

Meris Stansbury

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