Rachel's Notes: February 20, 2008

Last Updated: February 20, 2008

Welcome to the Rural School Innovation Network, a new initiative of the Rural School and Community Trust.

Our goal is to learn from our members what issues are affecting rural communities, to share good ideas and solutions to problems from the experiences of our members, and to help organize and mobilize rural schools and communities to be an effective voice for their students and their schools. Your input is actively sought. Please drop me a line anytime.

All the staff at the Rural Trust are education policy and practice junkies reading tons of stuff each week. We also try to keep up with important happenings here in Washington DC. And visit many places trying to build support for rural people and rural education. We want to share our gleanings with you.

This section of the members-only website will highlight two or three items a week that I think might interest you. I'll sort through the overflow of information that bombards us all and finds those items that are most relevant for you. Because we have a particular interest in places that are facing the challenges of poverty and diversity, I will tend to include more ideas on that topic.

So here are my three connections of the week.

The Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire publishes a lot of really good information on a variety of rural issues. These reports are excellent resources for writing grant proposals. And many of their reports are short and to the point. The latest piece on rural youth describes a troublesome problem—nationally 10% of youth between the ages of 18 and 24 are idle, that is they are not in school, the workforce, or the Armed Services. Rates are higher for rural youth—nationally it's 12.4% but in the West it rises to 18.4%. Dropouts are far more likely to be idle than those who finish high school. One half of rural Black high school dropouts are idle. The full article (2 pages) is at http://carseyinstitute.unh.edu/publications/SnyderIdleYouthFS08.pdf.

For connections to some of the best writing on rural topics including some that are just plain fun check out www.dailyyonder.com. This site has been created by our friends at the Center for Rural Strategies and is managed by Bill Bishop and Julie Ardrey. Bill and Julie published a newspaper in rural Texas and Bill has been a columnist and editor at the Lexington Herald and the Austin Statesman. I have it bookmarked and check it once a week for the latest updates. Check it out and you too may wish to bookmark it.

Gary Orfield has been writing about schools and race for more than 30 years. He now heads the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. He and his colleague Erica Frankenberg have just finished a paper called "The Last Have Become First: Rural and Small Town America Lead the Way on Desegregation."

The paper is chock full of statistics comparing big city, mid-sized city, suburbs for both, town and rural rates of segregation. And, in fact, rural and small town are better, but better is definitely relative. Nationally 48.5 % of rural Black students and 51.4% of Latinos students are in a school that is majority minority and 93.5 % of city Black students and 94% of Latino students are in majority minority schools. So that is a huge gap but the rural percentages are also very high.

The least segregated rural region is the Midwest and the most segregated rural region is the West. Rural Latinos are less segregated than Blacks in the border, NE and Central states and more segregated in the rural West. In the South, 52.5% of rural Black students and 53.5 % of Latinos are in majority minority schools. The paper does not discuss the fact that in many places in the rural South, white students are attending private academies.

The link is http://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/deseg/lasthavebecomefirst.pdf.

Again, welcome to the new RSIN. We invite you to share this new initiative with your colleagues also involved in rural education and communities. Feel free to down load the RSIN Founding Members brochure and bring it with you to your next meeting.

Rachel Tompkins

Drop me a line at rachel.tompkins@ruraledu.org.