Education always seems to be front and center in the public eye. This is certainly true in politics. There are certainly many opinions about what should be done with education, however, there seems to be a forgotten aspect of the educational argument: rural education!
Don’t misunderstand me, all schools are important. However, they all have different issues and needs. We say that best practice for teaching students is a variety in instruction and not a one size fits all mentality. It’s no different from the standpoint of schools. Rural schools, urban schools, and everything in between have many different needs that must be addressed. It is vital that we don’t forget rural schools or any other schools in the education equation.
There is a legislative session currently going in Arkansas. As you might guess education is a very big topic. There are many bills being presented in both the senate and the house. Vouchers, home school families receiving public school funding, home school student participation in extracurricular activities, school choice to name a few. In all of these important issues it appears that the rural school is being ignored not just at the state level but certainly at the national level as well.
Daisy Dyer Duerr (@daisydyerduerr) is a former a high school principal and current keynote speaker who is a rural school advocate. I highly suggest following her on Twitter and follow her podcast, Totally Rural. She is wonderful from an education standpoint and is a great person as well with a deep, wonderful passion for all students.
Daisy suggests five ways to improve rural education:
- Accessibility to broadband access will help close the digital divide that exists for rural areas. Dr. Paul Lasley, a Sociologist at Iowa St. University says, “High speed internet is as important to today’s young adults as electric lines and paved highways were to their parents and grandparents.
*According to U.S. News and World Report the latest data shows only 55% of people living in rural areas have access to the speed that qualifies as broadband while 94% of urban population does.
- Establish or bring back community vitality: This should not only include college readiness tracks but opportunity for careers in the community. This can and should include partnering with local industry. Schools cannot be ENGINES OF EXODUS in rural America.
- Advocate for these rural areas. Rural schools and areas must be represented!
- Revitalize rural America by growing and developing rural entrepreneurs and Farm Bureau Shark Tank Challenge. Listen to the Totally Rural podcast to find out more about this.
- Universities should adopt a rural education master’s program. Incentivize the good work being done in 285 of the 320 persistent poor counties. Daisy also adds to this point that innovation should be rewarded and risk taking should be celebrated by those institutions.
Internship programs and vocational education should be promoted and supported as well. The schools themselves typically do support vocational education but it should also be supported at the state and national level as well. At Western Yell County High School we are in our first year of an internship program that has been very successful for our students. We also have a great academic partner with the Arkansas Tech Career Center in Russellville, AR as well as a neighboring school district that promotes both college and career tracks. This allows our students to have and see opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t see in high school.
The Arkansas Department of Education has done a great job making sure the rural schools in Arkansas have sufficient broadband access. The ability of our students to take online classes through Virtual Arkansas has been tremendous. Our students have access to concurrent credit classes through Virtual Arkansas and Arkansas Tech University.
While all of the aforementioned items are wonderful more still needs to be done so rural students are not lost in the equation. Rural schools need to have advocates. Students deserve the very best education that can be afforded to them regardless of locale! The rural school is being forgotten and not being represented as it should. That needs to change!