Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. students attend rural schools. After a two-year pandemic, issues related to funding, teacher recruitment and retention, and serving disadvantaged students have become more severe in rural school districts.

In a new five-part report series, “Educational Equity for Rural Students: Out of the Pandemic, but Still Out of the Loop,” NSBA’s Center for Public Education (CEP) examines the growing diversity of rural students, and the urgent need to fix the digital divide and support rural student well-being.

The series explores five topics about unequal learning opportunities and the achievement gap that affect these students. The reports from the series are available via the links below:

Part 1: “Growing Diversity of Rural Students”: This report examines changes in the enrollment patterns in rural schools and the growing diversity of their students. Data cover not only the demographic changes of rural students, but also isolation levels, poverty concentration, regional differences in poverty, and other challenges.

Part 2: “An Urgent Need to Fix the Digital Divide”: The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the urgency of building equal access to internet services in rural areas. This report addresses how the persistent digital divide ― often referred to as the homework gap ― causes underserved rural students to face more challenges and disadvantages, and what strategies education leaders may take to close the gap.

Part 3: "Thinking Broadly and Deeply about Rural Student Achievement and Teacher Pipelines": This report focuses on the student achievement gap and teacher shortages in rural areas. We examined the diversity of rural students on the Nation’s Report Card, namely, regional, demographic, and geographical patterns in student academic performance. Based on our findings, we discuss five unique learning opportunities that rural students often miss and encourage education leaders to consider providing more policy and practice support in those fields.

Part 4: "School Safety and Mental Health of Rural Students: Things That Matter": In this report, we present data about how the COVID-19 pandemic changed rural student behaviors and aggravated mental health issues in rural schools. Challenges and considerations are examined in the areas of preventing suicide in rural schools, preventing school violence in rural areas, and partnering with parents and communities to foster a safe and healthy school culture.

Part 5: "Parent and Community Supports Are Assets of Rural Schools": In this concluding part of our rural education series, we focus on stories of rural families that go beyond statistics and delve into specific challenges rural parents encounter when getting involved in their children's education. Strategic recommendations are provided for rural school districts to support their communities better and enhance educational outcomes.

Additional Rural Report: "Back-to-School Statistics: Students in Rural Public Schools": A rural perspective in setting education policies is often linked to spatial equity. In this brief, we provide readers with some key back-to-school statistics on rural schools, hoping to increase the awareness that rural students, families, and communities deserve a voice in policymaking decisions and an investment in their educational infrastructures.

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