The Rural Dropout Problem: An Invisible Achievement Gap
Last Updated: May 19, 2010
By Jerry Johnson, Ed.D., Marty Strange, and Karen Madden
This report reviews high school dropout rates and related factors in rural high schools throughout 15 Southern and Southwestern states. These schools are in districts that are among the 800 rural districts with the highest student poverty rate nationally. Seventy-seven percent of the "Rural 800
" districts and 87 percent of the students in them are in these fifteen targeted states.
Characteristics of Rural 800 School Districts and Students
These high-poverty rural school districts are more racially and ethnically diverse than all other rural school districts and all other districts of any kind. Nearly three in five of the students in these districts are people of color.
Among Rural 800 districts in the 15 target states, the Title I eligibility rate is more than double that of other rural districts and that of all other districts. Rural 800 districts in these 15 states are twice as likely to be English Language Learners as rural students elsewhere, and 24 percent more likely than students in all other districts of any kind. They are only slightly more likely to qualify for special education services.
Rural 800 school districts in the 15 target states operate with less state and local funding per pupil ($7,731) than for all other rural districts ($8,134) or all non-rural districts ($9,611). The gap is caused by differences in local revenue that are partially, but not adequately, mitigated by somewhat higher state revenue.
Among Rural 800 districts in the 15 target states, just over 6 in 10 students can be expected to graduate, compared with 70% among other rural districts and 67% among non-rural districts.
Rural 800 school districts (in the target states) with lower graduation rates serve considerably higher rates of minority students than do Rural 800 school districts with average or better graduation rates.
Top Performing Rural 800 Districts
We identified 20 Rural 800 school districts within the 15 target states with (1) graduation rates in the top 20%, (2) 2007-08 reading proficiency rates in the top 20%, and (3) 2007-08 math proficiency rates in the top 20%. The only statistically significant difference between the 20 highest performing Rural 800 districts and all other Rural 800 districts in the same states was that higher performance is associated with smaller district size. More significant, the racial/ethnic characteristics of these districts is very different from that of the Rural 800 overall. Eighty three percent of the students in these high-performing, high-poverty district are white and fewer than one percent are English language learners. This reinforces the widely recognized reality that an achievement gap separates the performance of students of color and white students.
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Related Tags: Achievement Gap
, Graduation Rate/Dropout
, Income Related Issues
, Rural 800/900
, Rural Education Policy
, Title I