Serve Students: Rethink Rural Education
Last week, education officials, academic scholars and education advocates convened in Little Rock for the Southern Education Foundation’s 2018 Issues Forum. At this year’s forum, education stakeholders discussed the politics of equity in public education and how the South can best serve all of its students through innovative and evidence-based solutions.
One of the topics considered was how we can best meet the educational needs of the more than one-third of our state’s students who attend a rural school.
According to the Southwest Regional Education Labs, rural schools in Arkansas, defined by their distance to urbanized areas, vary in size and levels of poverty, but generally are smaller and poorer than districts in urban areas. In order to truly achieve education equity across the state, a deeper look is needed into what it will take for rural students to have access to a wide variety of family and student support resources, course offerings and career opportunities.
The community school model is a viable solution to meeting the unique needs of rural schools. Through community partnerships, schools connect students and their families to assistance and resources, including health care, before- and after-school enrichment programs and free meals during the school day, to name a few.
By bringing families and the community together, community schools have the potential to bridge the limited resources many rural communities experience. For example, if a school partners with a local health center, students can see a pediatrician during the school day, which is beneficial for the entire family.