Lessons from Rural Schools: it's time to revisit the benefits of small schools.THERE'S A LOT TO LEARN FROM rural schools. "We're on the cutting edge because we never changed," said one rural school principal from Maine. He referred to principles that still work: staying small, involving parents and nurturing close ties to the community. Though many urban administrators have rediscovered such wisdom, too many rural legislators and administrators have lost sight of them.
School size is just one example. In his study of American high American High School may refer to the following:
Any of a series of Earth-orbiting spacecraft whose launching by the Soviet Union inaugurated the space age. , President James Conant James Conant may be:
Harvard College, originally for men, was founded in 1636 with a grant from the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. recommended increasing the number of students in America's public schools. He blamed small schools for poorly preparing students, particularly in math and science, and suggested that no school should have fewer than 125 students per graduating class, or 400-500 per school. In response, many schools and districts were consolidated. Since 1940, over 68 percent of all schools have closed, even though the student population has grown by more than 70 percent. As a result, almost a third of the schools average over 1,000 students-the size many researchers agree is the largest possible without damaging student achievement regardless of race, economic situation or geographic location.
School Consolidation Woes
As layers of administration accreted in large urban and rural consolidated schools, costs of transporting students escalated and disaffected students became frustrated. For example, as my colleagues and I noted in a report, Dollars & Sense: 7he Cost Effectiveness of Good Small Schools, the U.S. Department Of Education stated in 1999 that schools with 1,000 or more students reported 270 percent more acts of vandalism and 394 percent more physical fights than schools of 300 or fewer students. Urban districts discovered that the "hidden" costs, such as increased layers of administration and increased costs of transportation, security, and discipline, as well as higher dropout (1) On magnetic media, a bit that has lost its strength due to a surface defect or recording malfunction. If the bit is in an audio or video file, it might be detected by the error correction circuitry and either corrected or not, but if not, it is often not noticed by the human rates in larger schools, outweighed anticipated savings through consolidation. When student achievement deteriorated and dropout rates increased in larger schools many urban administrators began to re-create smaller schools. Public districts in Chicago, Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. , Boston, New York Boston is a town in Erie County, New York, United States. The population was 7,897 at the 2000 census. The town is named after Boston, Massachusetts.
The Town of Boston is an interior town of the county and one of the county's "Southtowns. and other metropolitan areas are seeing some success from their efforts. New York City New York City: see New York, city.
New York City
City (pop., 2000: 8,008,278), southeastern New York, at the mouth of the Hudson River. The largest city in the U.S. , for example, recently announced that for the second consecutive year its new, smaller schools have average graduation rates of 73 percent, compared to the 60 percent graduation rates in its larger schools, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. a June 2007 story in The New York Post The New York Post is the 13th-oldest newspaper published in the United States and the oldest to have been published continually as a daily. Since 1976, it has been owned by Australian-born billionaire Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and is one of the 10 .
Ironically, however, as urban districts struggle to create smaller schools, some rural districts and largely rural states work equally hard to close them. Legislators in Nebraska, West Virginia West Virginia, E central state of the United States. It is bordered by Pennsylvania and Maryland (N), Virginia (E and S), and Kentucky and, across the Ohio R., Ohio (W). Facts and Figures
Area, 24,181 sq mi (62,629 sq km). Pop. , and Maine still push to close their smaller schools and consolidate districts in hopes of saving money and increasing student achievement Increasing Student Achievement: What State NAEP Test Scores Tell Us is a RAND study of educational reform in the United States. The League of Education Voters cites the study in support of its Initiative 728, which advocates reducing class size and increasing per-pupil . In West Virginia, newly constructed or renovated elementary schools must have no fewer than 300 students, middle schools no fewer than 450, and high schools no fewer than 800. The urban experience with larger schools, however, has shown that the opposite of the desired effect-saving money and improving student achievement--will likely be the result.
It's time It's Time was a successful political campaign run by the Australian Labor Party (ALP) under Gough Whitlam at the 1972 election in Australia. Campaigning on the perceived need for change after 23 years of conservative (Liberal Party of Australia) government, Labor put forward a for rural administrators and legislators to look at the failures of large schools before they close their small ones, and for rural parents, residents and school board members to reconsider the benefits, in part because many small rural schools function as centers of their communities, and because transportation costs to distant consolidated schools are so high.
Innovative rural people, whose habits of independence and thriftiness mother invention, have found ways to sustain their small schools, often through partnerships. Tiny Belvidere School District The Belvidere School District is a comprehensive community public school district that serves students in Kindergarten through twelfth grade from Belvidere in Warren County, New Jersey, United States. in Vermont built a school that also houses municipal offices and the town library. As I reported in The Hermit Crab hermit crab, a crustacean distinguished from true crabs by its long, soft, spirally coiled abdomen terminating in an asymmetrically hooked tail. Most hermit crabs protect this vulnerable portion of their bodies by occupying the empty shells of periwinkles, whelks, Solution, this partnership resulted in a better library and media center for residents and students than would have been possible if the school and municipality had funded separate facilities.
In another example, Laurel-Concord (Neb.) Public Schools invited residents to share the costs and use of a new media center, library and fitness center. For $10 a month they can use the fitness center after school hours. C. C. Blaney Elementary School and R. D. Schroder Middle School in Charleston County (S.C.) School District shared the cost of upgrading playing fields between them, and shared the cost of staffing with the town and county parks and recreation service so they could share athletic programs and facilities, according to Dollars & Sense II.
Working with Superintendent Daniel J. Hoesing in the Laurel-Concord district, school board members have also been innovative in other ways. For example, when the local bank foreclosed on a neighboring business, the board persuaded the bank to donate the facility to the district. The district resold the building and uses the monthly payments for revenue. In addition, the school accepts donated computers, teaches students to recondition re·con·di·tion
tr.v. re·con·di·tioned, re·con·di·tion·ing, re·con·di·tions
To restore to good condition, especially by repairing, renovating, or rebuilding. them, and then rents the refurbished computers to residents. The program has raised enough money to cover costs of all new software purchases. And when educators at the adjacent Coleridge Public School District asked Hoesing to be their superintendent, he and the two school boards agreed that each district would share the cost of his salary, according to Dollars & Sense II. Now, Hoesing is superintendent of two additional neighboring districts.
When so many districts struggle to provide good educational programs, administrators should consider staying small, involving parents and nurturing ties to the community.
Restoring these strengths underlies the effort to improve urban schools, and rural legislators and administrators need to value them as well.
Dollars & Sense reports
The Hermit Crab Solution: Creative Alternatives for Improving Rural School Facilities and Keeping Them Close to Home
Barbara Kent Lawrence teaches at Northeastern University and is an educational consultant.