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The Culture of Rural American Schools Jacob T. Lutz, M.A. Ball State University EDCUR 601.

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Presentation on theme: "The Culture of Rural American Schools Jacob T. Lutz, M.A. Ball State University EDCUR 601."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Culture of Rural American Schools Jacob T. Lutz, M.A. Ball State University EDCUR 601

2 Introduction In recent years the plight of urban students has garnered the attention of policymakers and the media. Drug use, violence, & gangs have rightly become one of the primary targets for remediation in today's schools. However, the unfortunate byproduct of this shift has been the limited emphasis placed on issues facing our rural schools. The Rural School and Communities Trust recently reported that 29% of public school students in the U.S. attend schools in communities with fewer than 25,000 people, with the majority of those students (22%) attending schools in communities of less 2,500 individuals (2007, p. 7). These percentages represent over 10 million U.S. students suggesting that the culture of curriculum within rural U.S. schools is far reaching and merits more of our attention.

3 A Case Study Demographics of a local rural elementary school: Houses approximately 550 total students drawn from nearby farming communities Includes grades K-6 th Average class size is 22 students Staff includes: Building Principle Assistant Principle Teachers Secretaries Additional Support staff (bus drivers, custodians, cooks, etc.)

4 A Case Study (cont) Instructional Emphasis Most closely follows a model described by Pamela Joseph as connecting to the canon (Joseph, Bravmann, Windschitl, Mikel, & Green, 2000). Core courses include: Language Arts Reading Math Science Social Studies Content for specific subjects is largely determined by the content of the adopted textbook series.

5 A Case Study (cont) Instructional Emphasis Additional instruction and opportunities are provided in the areas of: Music Physical Education Technology Art Library

6 A Case Study (cont) Course structure Beginning in Kindergarten courses follow a very structured schedule. Courses are scheduled in blocks Student rotate classrooms (and teachers) for some subjects Example of the third grades daily schedule: 8:15 – 8:45 8:45- 9:40 9:40- 10:00 10:00- 10:45 10:45- 11:25 Daily Writing, Math, and LA ReadingRecessSpelling, Math, Misc. Arts Rotation 11:30- 12:00 12:05- 12:40 12:40- 1:50 1:50- 2:10 2:10- 2:55 LunchCore Extension Science, SS RecessMath

7 A Case Study (cont) Assessment Policies Students are frequently assessed using standardized measures of academic achievement including: Northwest Evaluation Assessment (NWEA) ISTEP Additional assessment measures include the use of grading rubrics and more qualitative measures such as student, parent, and teacher interviews.

8 A Case Study (cont) Goals of Instruction One school administrator reported that the primary goal for students was that they would leave being able to read and understand material at an appropriate grade level. The administrator noted that it was unfortunate that such a basic goal was often difficult to achieve. Another goal for students was that they would progress through course in a logical manner and be prepared for their transition to middle school.

9 A Case Study (cont) Frustrations Administrators reported several frustrations, or goals for improvement within their school. Teachers tend to focus to closely on the text without exploring new ways of presenting materials Teachers feel pressured by frequent State required evaluations which leave time for little besides test preparation

10 A Case Study (cont) Observation Based on my experiences in various rural schools this year, this approach to instruction is commonly followed. Unfortunately, the accompanying frustrations have also been voiced across settings. Although we cannot review each school in such an in-depth manner, the following slide provides a snapshot of some of the demographic characteristics of rural schools across Indiana.

11 A Broader View: Rural Schools Throughout Indiana (The Rural School and Community Trust, 2007, p. 54)

12 What Does it Mean? The previous slide illustrates some of the important issues faced by rural schools in Indiana and highlights challenges and needs that are common to rural school across the country. Thus far the information we have considered has provided a brief look at the culture of rural American schools. Information drawn not only from a local school, but also from state and national reports has provided us with a feel for the culture of rural schools within the U.S.. However, this appreciation is of little value unless we consider not only what the culture looks like but also the strengths and weakness that accompany it.

13 Weaknesses of Rural Schools Reduced social capital Research indicates that social capital (which is comprised of community resources such as the communities general socioeconomic status and level of education) significantly affect levels of academic achievement (Florida Agricultural Experiment Station Project, n.d.). This represents a challenge for rural communities since they typically have lower overall social capital than their urban counterparts.

14 Weaknesses of Rural Schools (cont) Reduced academic opportunities Schools in rural areas are often limited by the geography and travel times. Where students in large cities may take an afternoon trip to an art museum, more rural students may not be able to allocate the time and resources necessary to travel to such a location. This results in less opportunities for enriching experiences such as traveling to museums or industries.

15 Weaknesses of Rural Schools (cont) Reduced specialization of educators Teachers in rural areas are often required to teach multiple subject areas. The english teacher and the math teacher may be the same person. This can result in less specialization amongst faculty as teachers struggle to keep up with a diverse array of subjects.

16 Strengths of Rural Schools Despite the challenges facing rural schools, there are also notable strengths within the rural culture of curriculum. Low student to teacher ratio Rural schools often provide a much more advantageous student to teacher ratio than is available in more urban areas. This allows educators to capitalize on Goldsteins observation that caring relationships are a central part of intellectual growth and development (Goldstein, 1999, p.669).

17 Strengths of Rural Schools (cont) Greater individual freedom for teachers and unique opportunities for students Educators in rural areas may be given more freedom to try diverse educational approaches. Teachers who are part of large urban corporations often find that the greater the size of the school, the more strict the policies. The freedom experienced in smaller school allows educators to follow the advice of individuals such as Elliot Eisner who advocate for the greater inclusion of artistic expression in education (Eisner, 2003).

18 Strengths of Rural Schools (cont) Strong community ties Teachers and students in rural schools often share a strong sense of community and will likely interact outside of the school environment at local events. This promotes positive relationships which can lead to better academic outcomes. Additionally parents and teachers are often acquainted with one another and may communicate more often than parents and teachers in larger populations.

19 Conclusion There is no question that rural schools within the U.S. present a unique culture of curriculum. Despite the challenges faced by these schools, they present great opportunities for students and teachers who are willing to capitalize on their strengths. The freedom to try new approaches to curriculum within a rural school setting may represent their greatest asset. Rural corporations that take advantage of this flexibility may well discover approaches to curriculum that set the pace for larger districts throughout the U.S..

20 References Eisener, E. W. (2003). The arts and the creation of the mind. Language Arts, 80(5), pp Florida Agricultural Experiment Station Project. (n.d.) The influence of social capital on test scores: How much do families, schools, & communities matter? Gainesville: Israel & Beaulieu. Goldstein, L. S. (1999). The relational zone: The role of caring relationships in the co- construction of mind. American Educational Research Journal, 36(3), pp Joseph, P. B., Bravmann, S. L., Windschitl, M. A., Mikel, E. R., Green, N. S. (2000). Cultures of curriculum. Mawah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. The Rural School and Community Trust (2007). Why rural matters 2007: The realities of rural education growth. Arlington: Johnson & Strange.

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