Public Policy Principles for Rural Education

Last Updated: December 03, 2008

Conditions We Seek to Achieve Through Public Policy
Conditions We Seek to Avoid Through Public Policy

All children should have access to equal educational opportunity notwithstanding where they live, the color of their skin, the language they speak, or how wealthy their parents or their neighbors are. Rural children are not denied access to equal educational opportunity because they live in poor, sparsely settled, remote, isolated, distant, lonely, quiet, or plain places.
Access to educational opportunity is a function of where a child lives, the color of his or her skin, the language he or she speaks, the cultural or religious background from which he or she comes, or how well off her/his parents or their neighbors are. Rural children are expected to migrate daily to school or move to places of better educational opportunity.

Schools should be governed by the people they serve, with the expectation that they will accept the duty to govern well. School governing bodies reflect the composition of the community the school serves.
Schools are governed by experts or officials who do not know the people or the place the school serves and do not reflect the character of the community.

Schools should be small enough so that every adult who teaches or leads in them can know every child, every child's participation is needed and/or wanted, and most important decisions can be discussed by everyone affected at one time and in one place and a change in school policy can be implemented by mutual consent.
Schools are too big to accommodate participation by all but a few in most voluntary activities and almost all important decisions. Student contact with adults is highly structured and limited, and many children are not known even by their teachers.

Children are engaged in the course of their academic program in public work that helps them understand the place in which they live and helps to build a stronger and better community in that place. They are prepared to be active, engaged citizens who can live well in any place they choose. They work with adults, both professional teachers and others.
Children sit in classrooms believing that the purpose of education is to improve oneself by escaping the place and community in which one lives.

Teachers are prepared to teach in a rural setting, open to community participation in the classroom, eager to engage their students in public work that builds community.
Teachers are trained to teach to the test, accommodate their classroom to rigid curricula imposed by state officials, resist the inclusion of non-professionals and local factors in the classroom, and are hostile to student work outside the classroom.

Teachers are given equal pay for equal work
Those who teach in rural areas are expected to sacrifice equal pay for doing so.

Every child's intellectual growth and academic success are valued both as personal achievements and as community assets. Learning standards are developed by the community a school serves, providing for (1) academic content that challenges each student, (2) use of the community and native place as curriculum, and (3) appropriate learning conditions including a safe environment, good facilities, and a community context.
Academic requirements are imposed from without, standardized across all locales, rigid in curriculum content and standardized in assessment. Achievement against high academic standards are viewed primarily as essential to a strong, competitive economy.

Student assessment is designed to inform and influence instruction and to measure learning, and includes "performance" assessment methods. Various assessment approaches are interwoven, and significant decisions affecting a student's place in the school community are based on an accumulation of evidence from a multitude of assessment sources.
Children are measured primarily for their progress against other students. Student assessment is of little help to teachers, is used mainly to induce student competition or to enforce reward-and-punishment systems imposed by adults on adults, and often serves as the exclusive basis for significant decisions about promotion or retention in grade, graduation, and admission to challenging courses.

Discipline is a fair, effective, and impartial tool for achieving an environment conducive to learning.
Discipline is a tool for removing unwanted children from school.

Schools are well maintained and in good repair. They are designed with full participation of the community as energy-efficient, four-season, multi-purpose, all-community facilities, are built of local materials in vernacular design and in a way that allows the building itself to be part of the curriculum of the school.
Schools are designed expediently by state architects without consultation of the community, and serve the sole purpose of daytime classroom instruction on a half-time basis. They are built of cheapest materials from standardized plans, are kept in minimal repair and remodeling is discouraged.

State aid for school construction is available on a need basis.
State aid for school construction is often an inducement to close community schools.

Distance learning systems are used to increase interaction between and among local places, to expose people to new ways of understanding and learning, and to extend special courses to small populations of students.
Distance learning systems have the effect of standardizing curriculum in core courses, increasing one-way instruction from central locations, and eliminating diverse perspectives.

Access to telecommunications services are universal and a recognized responsibility of the public sector.
Access to telecommunications services are a function of market demand.

Schools are located to optimize student access to teachers and instruction and to the community as an instructional resource. Time in transit is limited according to principles of physical and mental health, readiness to learn, and geography.
Schools are closed to achieve elusory or arbitrary economies of scale, measured on the basis of per pupil cost, and children are forced into long commutes that weaken their academic performance, separate them from their families, and isolate them from their school and community, while resources are shifted from instruction to transportation.

Students of all abilities are included without prejudice in the learning community. Academic sorting systems are used only to personalize instruction and to enrich each child's curriculum.
Ability grouping is used to segregate classrooms on the basis of race or some other suspect classification, or to structure academic expectations, access to instructional services, or rewards for performance on the basis of prior assessment of ability.