Mara Casey Tieken, Sheneka Wiliams: Times Article on Rural School Misses Half the Story – Educational Success
Earlier this month, the New York Times Magazine published a story highlighting the inequities facing rural schools, but while these scholars studying rural schools explain, the story’s point is important–but it’s not the full picture.
Research shows that rural students graduate high school at rates higher than the national average. Rural students also outperform non-rural students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in both reading and math, and rural Black students’ NAEP scores are higher than those of Black students attending city schools. What explains these results, when so many rural schools–especially schools serving rural Black students–face such limited resources?
When we talk to rural students and staff and parents about their school, we hear one word again and again: care. Students tell us about teachers that won’t let them fall behind and principals that ask about their pets. Parents share that teachers visit for dinner and that, during P.E., children cheer for the very last kid over the finish line. Teachers talk about parents chaperoning school dances and local businesses donating materials for class projects. Principals describe fundraisers to support struggling families and lunch ladies that pay a student’s bill. What they all say: in this school, we care about each other.
We can see this care, too. We see it in after-school tutoring sessions, overnight field trips, and art shows held in cafeterias. We walk through hallways where announcements boasting college acceptances and scholarships hang under generations of senior class photos. We attend basketball games and graduation ceremonies in gymnasiums crowded with community members screaming for “our kids.” We see principals spend their Sundays hopping from church service to church service, just to see their students. We watch administrators devote holidays to crunching state test data and applying for grants and figuring out how to get the Internet to all of their families.
And we see how these rural schools do more than provide education. We know that the school district is often a community’s largest employer, and that school boards provide residents with political voice. These schools serve as hubs for community events, from holiday concerts to family reunions to funerals. The school, residents tell us, is “our center,” “the heart of the community,” “like family.”