Rural Low-Graduation Rate Districts Are High-Poverty, High-Minority


Last Updated: December 29, 2009
 

This article appeared in the December 2009 Rural Policy Matters.

High-poverty rural districts with the lowest graduation rates tend to serve high-minority student populations. A soon-to-be-released report by the Rural School and Community Trust investigates high school graduation rates among high poverty rural districts in fifteen southeastern and southwestern states. On average, low graduation rate districts tend to have higher concentrations of minority students than do high graduation rate districts that are also high poverty.

The districts in the analysis are among the 800 poorest rural districts in the U.S. and are located in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.

The analysis divided the 633 districts into five equally sized groups, or quintiles, of 126 (or 127) districts. The graduation rates of the 633 districts were divided among the five quintiles. The percentage of students qualifying for subsidized school meals ranged from 66.7% to 75.4%; the percentage of minority students ranged from 37.6% to 67.1%.

The quintile with the highest graduation rate (95.4% or higher) enrolled 37.6% minority students and had an average free/reduced meal eligibility rate of 66.7%. The lowest graduation rate quintile (graduation rates of 49.3% or lower) enrolled 67.1% minority students and had an average free/reduced meal eligibility rate of 75.4%.

Among the key findings presented in the report, results indicate that school districts with the lowest graduation rates serve predominantly high-poverty, high-minority student populations.

Efforts to reduce the dropout rate and increase the percentage of students graduating need to be targeted to the specific challenges and circumstances of high-poverty rural districts serving high percentages of minority students.

Read more from the December 2009
Rural Policy Matters.