A Rural Advantage: For Illinois and America

Rural school districts are as diverse as the communities they serve and the students they educate. Their unique histories, cultures, and landscapes result in community-based schools that defy categorization. Still, there are common themes:

  • Rural schools are community hubs and bring people together.
  • Rural schools encourage student participation and ownership.
  • Rural schools serve as cultural centers for the arts and music.

Augmenting their community roles, a small school can play an integral role in addressing a rural community’s most pressing issues. For instance, students, teachers, and school leaders can be involved in planning and working toward sustainable local economies that embrace the best characteristics of place and people. Through school-based entrepreneurship, civic engagement, and meaningful collaboration, public education can become the economic linchpin of savvy rural development.​

In addition to their contributions to the common good, rural and small schools provide students with measurable benefits. “The Hobbit Effect,” authored and published in 2006 by educational researcher, Lorna Jimerson, summarizes a wide range of findings that support the strengths of rural and small schools. For example, Jimerson reports when socio-economic factors are taken into account, children in smaller schools are academically more successful, have higher graduation rates, take more advanced courses, and participate in extra-curricular activities to a higher degree. Overall, Jimerson’s extensive review of research found ten “research-based reasons” why small schools work:

  • There is greater participation in extra-curricular activities, and that is linked to academic success.
  • Small schools are safer.
  • Kids feel they belong.
  • Small class size allows more individualized instruction.
  • Good teaching methods are easier to implement.
  • Teachers feel better about their work.
  • Mixed-ability classes avoid condemning some students to low expectations.
  • Multiage classrooms promote personalized learning and encourage positive social interactions.
  • Smaller districts mean less bureaucracy.
  • More grades in one school alleviate many problems of transitions to new schools.

What’s Your Story?
The rural regions of Illinois and our nation are as unique as the people who inhabit them, but their common advantage is the opportunity for people to develop a real sense of place. What is your rural advantage? Let us know, and we will share your story! Please contact us at execdir@airssedu.org.

Support AIRSS Today