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

3.6. Pupil-teacher ratio in public schools

Rural public schools generally had fewer pupils per teacher than schools in other locales in 2003–04.

In the 2003–04 school year, average pupil-teacher ratios in public schools were lowest in rural areas (15.3), followed by towns (15.9), and then cities (16.9) and suburbs (16.9) (table 3.6 and figure 3.6). Among the rural subcategories, fringe rural areas had the highest average pupil-teacher ratio (16.3), followed by distant rural areas (15.0) and remote rural areas (13.1). Average pupil-teacher ratios generally increased with school size for schools of all levels across all locales. In public schools enrolling fewer than 200 students in rural areas, the average pupil-teacher ratio was 12 percent, while those enrolling 2,000 or more students had an average pupil-teacher ratio of 20 percent (table 3.6). The same was true for cities, with a pupil-teacher ratio of 11 percent in schools enrolling fewer than 200 students and 20 percent in those enrolling 2,000 or more students.

Among the smallest rural public schools (those with enrollments under 200 students), combined schools had the lowest pupil-teacher ratio (9.4), followed by secondary schools (11.0) and elementary schools (12.6).

The average pupil-teacher ratio in public elementary schools was lower in rural areas (15.4) than in towns (15.9), cities (16.6), and suburbs (16.7) (table 3.6). The same was true for public secondary schools: the pupil-teacher ratio in rural schools (15.3) was lower than in towns (16.2), suburbs (17.5), and cities (18.1). This pattern, however, did not hold true for public combined schools: in rural areas combined schools had a higher average ratio than in suburban areas (13.9 vs. 13.1). Pupil-teacher comparisons among locales varied for the different school sizes.