Providing Rural Students with a High Quality Education

Last Updated: July 01, 2005

Providing Rural Students with a High Quality Education

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News Release
The Rural Perspective on the Concept of Educational Adequacy

by Gregory C. Malhoit

The Rural School and Community Trust (Rural Trust) believes that rural parents, students, community groups and grassroots people can add valuable information to discussions about educational adequacy and, therefore, they should be fully involved in the process of defining and costing out an adequate education. To explore this notion, the Rural Trust convened five leading state-level rural advocacy organizations. These organizations, collectively referred to as the Rural Equity Collaborative Group (REC Group), are geographically diverse and possess extensive knowledge about rural communities, grassroots people, schools, and education in their states. The REC Group was asked to explore ten key questions:

1. Does money matter in the process of educating children?

2. How great is the need for accountability and capacity building in a high quality education system?

3. Are small rural schools cost effective?

4. What are the unique characteristics of rural communities that should be considered in discussions about education quality?

5. What fundamental principles underlie a high quality state education funding system?

6. Are there better ways to convey the concept of “educational adequacy” to rural people and communities?

7. How essential is community involvement in determining educational “adequacy?”

8. What are the component parts of a “high quality” or “first rate” rural education program and do they cost more than in other schools?

9. Do existing state supplemental funding programs sufficiently reflect the higher costs of running rural schools?

10. How should state education funding systems be structured to reflect the higher costs of operating rural schools?

In examining these questions, the REC Group considered what is known about rural communities and schools, the results of education research, the views of leading school finance experts, court decisions, efforts in a number of states to define an “adequate education” and its cost, and the personal experiences of group members. A significant portion of the group’s analysis relied on the “evidence based approach to school finance adequacy” recently used by school finance consultants in Arkansas and Kentucky. This approach was used because it presents a set of component parts or educational strategies that leading education researchers have concluded impact student learning. It also enabled the REC Group to analyze the educational efficacy and cost of each component from a rural perspective.

By publishing the results of its work in this report, the REC Group hopes that those working in the school finance arena—school finance experts, educators, lawyers, state policymakers and rural advocates—will gain new information, insights, ideas, and guidance as they grapple with the urgent challenge of defining, costing-out, and providing all students with a high quality education.