Why Rural Matters 2005: The Facts About Rural Education in the 50 States

Last Updated: May 12, 2005

By Jerry Johnson, Ed.D, State and Regional Policy Studies Manager and Marty Strange, Policy Director

Why Rural Matters 2005
Full Report
PDF (4.2 MB)
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Executive Summary
PDF (358 KB)

State-by-State Results

News Release
PDF (85 KB)

Press Guide
PDF (165 KB)

News Conference
PowerPoint PDF (52 KB)
News Conference


Why Rural Matters 2005 is the third in a series of reports analyzing the importance of rural education in each of the 50 states and calling attention to the urgency with which policymakers in each state should address the problems of rural education.

In 2002-2003, 27% (12.5 million) of public school students attended school in communities of fewer than 25,000 and 19% (8.8 million) attended school in smaller communities of fewer than 2,500. In this report, we focus on the schools in those smaller communities, the most rural schools in America.

We framed the report around 22 statistical indicators grouped into four gauges measuring: (1) the relative importance of rural education, (2) the level of poverty in rural schools, (3) other socio-economic challenges faced by rural schools, and (4) the policy outcomes achieved in rural education. Policy outcomes include both student achievement measures (NAEP scores and graduation rates) and structural factors that both influence student outcomes and are within the control of policymakers to be "policy outcomes," such as student-teacher ratios, organizational scale of schools and districts, and per pupil spending on instruction.

The higher the ranking on a gauge, the more important or the more urgent rural education matters are in that state.

In sum, the results for each gauge are:

Importance: Half of the states where rural education is most important to the overall educational performance of the state are either in the Great Plains or the Midwest (South Dakota, Montana, North Dakota, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Kansas). Others are scattered in Northern New England (Maine and Vermont), Central Appalachia (West Virginia and Kentucky), the Mid-South Delta (Mississippi), and the Southeast (North Carolina).
Poverty: More than half of all rural students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals in 11 states. States with highest rural poverty rates are in the Southeast and Mid-South Delta (Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama), the Great Plains (Oklahoma, North Dakota, and South Dakota), Central Appalachia (Kentucky and West Virginia), and the Southwest (New Mexico and Arizona). Hawaii and Idaho are also among the states with the poorest rural population.
Challenges: Rural schools face challenges associated with factors other than poverty, including students with disabilities, students who cannot speak English well, and minority students disadvantaged by generations of racial and ethnic discrimination. Five of the 13 states with the most severe non-poverty challenges are in the Southeast (Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana) and seven more are located in the West and Southwest (New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, California, Hawaii, and Oklahoma).
Policy Outcomes: Eight of the 13 states with the worst policy outcomes are located east of the Mississippi River, mostly in the Southeast (Louisiana, Florida, Delaware, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and West Virginia). Three are in the West (Hawaii, California and Oregon), and two in the Southwest (Arizona and New Mexico).

State-by-State Results

Alabama State Report (PDF)  Alabama News Release (PDF) 
Alaska State Report (PDF)   
Arizona State Report (PDF)  Arizona News Release (PDF) 
Arkansas State Report (PDF)  Arkansas News Release (PDF) 
California State Report (PDF)   
Colorado State Report (PDF)   
Connecticut State Report (PDF)   
Delaware State Report (PDF)   
Florida State Report (PDF)   
Georgia State Report (PDF)  Georgia News Release (PDF) 
Hawaii State Report (PDF)   
Idaho State Report (PDF)   
Illinois State Report (PDF)   
Indiana State Report (PDF)   
Iowa State Report (PDF)   
Kansas State Report (PDF)   
Kentucky State Report (PDF)  Kentucky News Release (PDF) 
Louisiana State Report (PDF)  Louisiana News Release (PDF) 
Maine State Report (PDF)   
Maryland State Report (PDF)  Maryland News Release (PDF) 
Massachusetts State Report (PDF)   
Michigan State Report (PDF)  Michigan News Release (PDF) 
Minnesota State Report (PDF)   
Mississippi State Report (PDF)  Mississippi News Release (PDF) 
Missouri State Report (PDF)   
Montana State Report (PDF)  Montana News Release (PDF)
Nebraska State Report (PDF)  Nebraska News Release (PDF) 
Nevada State Report (PDF)   
New Hampshire State Report (PDF)   
New Jersey State Report (PDF)   
New Mexico State Report (PDF)  New Mexico News Release (PDF) 
New York State Report (PDF)   
North Carolina State Report (PDF)  North Carolina News Release (PDF) 
North Dakota State Report (PDF)   
Ohio State Report (PDF)  Ohio News Release (PDF) 
Oklahoma State Report (PDF)  Oklahoma News Release (PDF) 
Oregon State Report (PDF)   
Pennsylvania State Report (PDF)  Pennsylvania News Release (PDF) 
Rhode Island State Report (PDF)   
South Carolina State Report (PDF)  South Carolina News Release (PDF) 
South Dakota State Report (PDF)  South Dakota News Release (PDF) 
Tennessee State Report (PDF)   
Texas State Report (PDF)   
Utah State Report (PDF)   
Vermont State Report (PDF)   
Virginia State Report (PDF)   
Washington State Report (PDF)   
West Virginia State Report (PDF)  West Virginia News Release (PDF
Wisconsin State Report (PDF)   
Wyoming State Report (PDF)  Wyoming News Release (PDF)