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


  • In 2003–04, over half of all operating school districts and one-third of all public schools were in rural areas; yet only one-fifth of all public school students were enrolled in rural schools. (Indicator 1.1)
  • In 2003–04, a larger percentage of public school students in rural areas (10 percent) attended very small schools (schools with fewer than 200 students) than public school students in towns (3 percent), suburbs (1 percent), or cities (1 percent). (Indicator 1.2)
  • The percentage of White public school students in rural areas was larger than that in any other locale. The same was true for American Indian/Alaska Native public school students. However, the percentages of public school students in rural areas who were Black, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander were smaller than those in any other locale. (Indicator 1.3)
  • A larger percentage of public school students in the South and the Midwest were enrolled in rural schools (28 and 25 percent, respectively) than in the Northeast and the West (16 and 13 percent, respectively) in 2003–04. (Indicator 1.4)
  • In 2005, about 50 percent of children in rural areas between the ages of 3 and 5 attended a center-based preprimary program, such as a daycare center, Head Start program, preschool, nursery school, or prekindergarten. This was less than the national rate (57 percent). (Indicator 1.5)
  • In 2003–04, about 6 percent of rural students were enrolled in private schools, which was less than the national rate (11 percent). (Indicator 1.6)
  • In 2004, the percentage of children living in poverty or below 185 percent of the poverty threshold in rural areas (35 percent) was smaller than that in towns (46 percent) or cities (47 percent), but larger than that in suburban areas (28 percent). (Indicator 1.7)
  • Rural public schools overall had a smaller percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch in 2003–04 (38 percent) than public schools in cities and towns (53 and 43 percent, respectively). The percentage of public school students in rural remote areas attending a moderate-to-high poverty school (45 percent) was higher than the percentages in all other locales except large and midsize cities (66 and 49 percent). (Indicator 1.8)
  • In 2003–04, larger percentages of Black and American Indian/Alaska Native public school students in remote rural areas attended moderate-to-high poverty schools (87 and 79 percent, respectively) than in large cities (78 and 62 percent, respectively). (Indicator 1.9)
  • A smaller percentage of public school students in rural areas were identified as limited English proficient (LEP) than in any other locale in 2003–04 (2 vs. 5–14 percent). (Indicator 1.10)
  • There was little variation between the percentage of public school students with an Individual Education Program (IEP) in rural areas (13 percent) and the percentages in other locales (12–14 percent) in 2003–04. (Indicator 1.11)
  • In 2003, greater percentages of students in rural areas than students in cities had parents who attended a school event (74 vs. 65 percent) or served as a volunteer or on a committee (42 vs. 38 percent). In addition, a larger percentage of students in rural areas had parents who reported taking their children to an athletic event outside of school than students in cities and suburbs (42 vs. 34 and 38 percent, respectively). (Indicators 1.12 and 1.13)
  • In 2004, the percentages of school-age children in rural areas with a mother or father whose highest educational attainment was a high school diploma (33 and 36 percent, respectively) were higher than the comparable percentages for children in cities (26 and 24 percent, respectively) and suburbs (25 and 24 percent respectively). (Indicator 1.14)
  • In all locales a larger percentage of high school students in 2003 had parents who expected their child's highest educational attainment to be a bachelor's degree than any other level of attainment. The percentage of rural students whose parents expected their highest educational attainment to be less than a bachelor's degree (42 percent) was larger than the percentages of students in cities and suburban areas (30 and 25 percent, respectively). (Indicator 1.15)


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