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Status of Education in Rural America
NCES 2007-040
June 2007

Chapter 1. Demographics


The indicators in this chapter profile rural school systems, rural students in poverty or with disabilities, and parental support and school involvement in rural areas. The indicators highlight the fact that rural public school systems in the United States constitute over half of all school districts and one-third of all public schools, yet enroll only one-fifth of all public school students (indicator 1.1). Rural public school systems predominate in the South and Midwest (indicator 1.4).

Rural public school systems differ from those in other locales in terms of the population they serve. Greater proportions of rural public students are White and are enrolled in small schools than public school students in cities or suburban areas (indicators 1.2 and 1.3). A smaller proportion of students in rural areas than in cities or towns live near or below the poverty threshold (indicator 1.7). However, poverty is concentrated in remote rural areas, where American Indian/Alaska Native and Black public school students disproportionately attend moderate-to-high poverty schools (indicators 1.8 and 1.9). A smaller percentage of rural public school students are limited English proficient than public school students in other locales (indicator 1.10). The percentage of rural public school students identified as having disabilities is similar to other locales (indicator 1.11).

Rural students' parents do not differ markedly from those in other locales on several indicators. For example, parents in rural areas enroll their children in preprimary programs at similar rates to parents in towns, but at lower rates than parents in suburbs and cities (indicator 1.5). The percentages of rural students whose parents attend school events and volunteer are similar to those of students in suburban areas and towns, but higher than those of students in cities (indicator 1.12). However, a smaller percentage of students in rural areas than in cities have parents who are high school dropouts, and a smaller percentage of students in rural areas than in suburban areas have a parent with a bachelor's degree (indicator 1.14). Also, while a larger percentage of students in all locales have parents who expect them to attain a bachelor's degree than any other level of educational attainment, a greater proportion of rural students than students in cities and suburbs have parents who expect them to attain less than a bachelor's degree (indicator 1.15).


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