Archive for Thursday, July 26, 2007

Study: Rural students beat city kids in science

July 26, 2007


— Rural students perform better in science than their urban counterparts, and rural teachers are generally happy with their schools, a federal study says.

While many education reports examine urban issues, this Education Department study provides a snapshot of what's happening in rural schools. In all, about a third of U.S. public schools are located in rural areas. Generally, areas with fewer than 500 people per square mile are considered rural by the Census Bureau.

When it comes to achievement, the report released Wednesday finds science is a strong subject for rural students. That could be because kids get their education in real-world settings as well as classrooms, says Marty Strange, policy director of the Rural School and Community Trust, an advocacy group. "Rural life is a little closer to nature," he said.

The report found:

¢ At all grade levels, rural students did better on national science tests than children in cities and performed about the same as suburban students.

¢ In math, rural kids did better than urban students at every grade level.

¢ Rural fourth- and eighth-graders read better than their urban peers. In high school, rural kids read about as well as kids in cities.

Among teachers, rural educators were more likely to report being satisfied with teaching conditions in their schools, according to the report. However, salaries are lower in rural schools than elsewhere, the report found.

Rural schools tend to be smaller and have lower student-teacher ratios than other schools, which might explain why teachers say conditions are good there, said Strange.

"Everybody knows everybody," he said. "Human relations are just better in smaller schools."

As for parents in rural communities, they were more likely than urban or suburban parents to report attending an event at their children's school during the year.

Val Plisko, associate commissioner at the Education Department's research arm, said that might have to do with the role schools play in rural areas. "Often times the school is the community. There are a lot of activities happening around the school," she said.

Not all rural schools are alike. The report found, for example, students were more likely to attend high-poverty schools in remote areas, compared to rural schools that are closer to urban communities.


manyblessings 10 years, 10 months ago

It makes sense that rural kids do better in science because they have lots of hands on experience with science living in the country, but I wonder why they do better in math? Maybe because a lot of rural kids are from families that have their own businesses/farming and they are learning about economics that way.

acg 10 years, 10 months ago

Or maybe it's because small town schools are generally more one on one with their students whereas city schools are overcrowded a lot of the time and the students can't get the individual attention that they need.

farmgirl 10 years, 10 months ago

No, it's because kids in rural schools know that education is their best option for getting out of the life that their parents have, a life that many of them don't want.

jonas 10 years, 10 months ago

"Rural schools tend to be smaller and have lower student-teacher ratios than other schools, which might explain why teachers say conditions are good there, said Strange."

Add to this: city schools average scores are more than likely brought down by the inner city schools where education and excellence are often frowned upon severely by peers and parents.

I have no experience with farmgirl's explanation, so I defer to her on that particular matter.

average 10 years, 10 months ago

Rural people tend to be somewhat more generalists. Are you going to call an electrician, plumber, or car mechanic from twenty miles away for everything? Similarly, rural teachers often cover multiple disciplines.

I know the chemistry teacher in a large school probably passed physics 20 years ago. In a smaller school, though, she is teaching physics in the next hour, and tends to highlight the connections between them.

Also, in a larger school, teachers form cliques. In a smaller school, the English (research methods?) teacher talks to the science teacher every day, and they can coordinate their lessons.

yourworstnightmare 10 years, 10 months ago

Could another factor be the dollar-to-student ratio spent on rural versus urban students, including school buildings and other infrastructure?

My suspicion is that the per-student monetary expediture is much higher in rural areas.

stuckinthemiddle 10 years, 10 months ago

Rural kids, in general, have less distractions.

blessed3x 10 years, 10 months ago

Just spit-balling here, but I think Farmgirl had the correct end result but the wrong cause. I see the rural setting as more stable, giving the rural students a firmer base in life as well as education. She saw them as bored, I see them as more likely to live in two parent, conservative households in areas with less crime and fewer distractions, thus giving them the roots they need.

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