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What is a rural school?

Few authorities on rural education will fully agree on the definition of a rural school. In general, isolation, limited resources, and school and class size define rural schools. Such agencies as the Census Bureau, the School District Data Book, and the Common Core of Data set different density factors to determine isolation and different ranges to define schools as small or large. Sometimes even these data sets can be inconsistent within their own data (NCES 97-259, pp 124-125). A school defined as both rural and small by any of these data sets will be considered without question to be a rural school. Complications arise when sparsely populated areas, such as West Virginia, Montana, or other states regularly seen as "rural" have county schools or consolidated school districts. These districts may range upward of 2,500 students, while small school districts are considered to be 1,000 or less students. Yet, most of the students in these consolidated county school systems are i from classically rural areas. The result is that most rural researchers must define for their specific research what is meant by rural.

Rural Schools Demographics Resources:

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has released the report "Status of Education in Rural America" in July, 2007. This report presents a series of indicators on the status of education in rural America, using the new NCES locale classification system. View the entire report. View select hightlights from the report

Stern, J. D. (Ed.). (1994). The condition of education in rural schools. US Department of Education, Officer of Educational Research and Improvement, Programs for the Improvement of Practice. U. S. Government Printing Office Stock #065-000-00653-7, ISBN # 0-16-045034-9. To order, call 202.219.1651. This is the first publication which "attempted to describe a full range of data on elementary and secondary education in rural schools." (p iii).

U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. Characteristics of small and rural school districts. NCES 97-529, by Donald H. McLaughlin, Mette B. Huberman, and Evelyn K. Hawkins. Project Officer, Lee M. Hoffman. Washington, DC: 1997. ISBN # 0-16-049056-1. To order, call 202.219.1651 or you can download it from here.

CSSRS Reports
CSSRS is constantly on the lookout for papers to publish as monographs (many of these are posted on our website). Should you have a monograph you wish to publish, is a creditable publisher for papers in rural education. In addition to monograph publications, CSSRS publishes a book occasionally from selected papers submitted at the Annual National Conference on Creating the Quality School. The following are the four books published thus far:

Chance, E.W. (Ed.) 1993. Creating the quality school: Selected Readings. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma, Center for the Study of Small/Rural Schools. (Out of Print)

Chance, E. W. (Ed.). 1995. Creating the quality school. Madison, WI: Magna Publications, Inc.
(Available at Amazon. com, ISBN 0-912150-36-X)

Cano Y., Wood, F. W. & Simmons, J.C. (Eds.). 1998. Creating high functioning schools: Practice and research. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.(Available at, ISBN 0-398-06859-3)

Owens, T. & Simmons, J. C. (Eds.). 2002. Creating Quality Reform: Programs, Communities, and Governance. Boston, MA: Pearson Education. (Available at, ISBN 0536680051)

Other Rural Schools Resources

"A Legacy of Leadership and Lessons Learned, Results from the Rural Systemic Initiatives for Improving Mathematics and Science Education" by Hobart Harmon and Keith Smith, is a report funded by the National Science Foundation. View the report.

The U. S. Department of Education has a website dedicated to rural education information. The site is called "Navigating Resources for Rural Schools" and can be found on their website:

The National Rural Education Association (NREA) has a journal entitled "The Rural Educator" that may be of assistance. To find out more about NREA, membership, and its publications, see their website:

The Rural School and Community Trust (formerly the Annenberg Rural Challenge Policy Program) began research on rural schools in 1996. The Rural Trust addresses the crucial relationship between good schools and thriving rural communities. Why Rural Matters 2003 is a publication from the Rural Trust which addresses these issues. The publication is available on their website:

Unfortunately, the ERIC/CRESS (Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools) is no longer in existence as such. The ERIC database is now maintained by Computer Sciences Corporation as authorized through ED's Institute of Education Sciences and can be found on their website: Unfortunately, they no longer separate out the different specialties like they used to do (rural education; lifelong learning, vo-tech, etc.). Although it has not been disaggregated, it is still a valuable, searchable database.

Organizations Concerned About Rural Education (OCRE) is a coalition of organizations interested in rural education. Their web site is or call 202.822.7638.

Bread Loaf Rural Teacher Network Magazine is a journal edited by Chris Benson, Bread Loaf School of English, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT 05753-6115, chris_benson ( Visit their website: