School consolidation doesn’t get good marks from a report issued today on America’s rural schools. Marty Strange, who founded the Center for Rural Affairs in Nebraska and is now Policy Director for the Rural School and Community Trust, says while rural schools face their own local challenges, they all share a few clear problems. Strange says too many states are spending too much money moving students to big schools far from home, paying rural teachers too little for the skills needed in hard-to-staff rural schools, failing to support the teachers with strong principals in their schools, and failing to provide technology in the classroom. Rachel Tompkins, president of the Rural School and Community Trust, says policymakers may tend to overlook kids who go to country schools.She says one third of U.S, schoolchildren go to school in rural areas or towns of fewer than 25,000, and more than one in five attend schools in towns smaller than 2500 people. She says almost a third of US public schools are in these “smallest rural places.” Many are not well off, Tompkins says, as 59 of the country’s 66 poorest counties are rural.Almost 14-percent of rural children live below the poverty level, and 18.6 percent of rural schoolkids are minorities. She adds the likelihood that a minority child lives in poverty in rural America is higher than it is in an inner city. Strange agreed that poverty is a concern for all of the country’s rural schools.He says economic distress is the universal enemy of student achievement, so it matters what happens in those schools. Strange says rural schools in different parts of the country face local economic and social issues, but they share a few challenges.
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