Rural Schools and Engaged Parents

For Parents, Possip, Principal / /
Seeing Rural Schools From a New Perspective

I’ve often thought about engaged parents from the lens of my own experiences with family members who attended rural schools. Moving to New York recently has me thinking a bit differently.  Since I’m originally from Mississippi and Tennessee I find the subway experience fascinating.

Between 6-9AM on New York City’s Subway system you see workers, tourists, students and parents. They are all going to different places for different reasons.  What I notice most is how the city’s transportation system removes many barriers. For students and parents, living in a large city makes it easy to get to different parts of the large city. What a privilege!Student waiting on the subway

For residents of urban districts, there are lots of things that are harder.  Still, there are some things that are easier. While we don’t discuss convenience in urban districts enough, we equally don’t discuss inconvenience in rural districts. 

In the News

Two recent news pieces made me think more about the experience of students and families in rural districts.

NPR recently covered a story called Inside the Movement to Improve Access to High Speed Internet in Rural Areas.  In a time of education apps and Chromebooks for every student, the reality is there are still 21 million people without broadband access.  Most of these people live in rural communities.

In this report by the Center for Public Education they outline some of the key facts and  the unique solutions needed for rural districts.  They highlight that “Rural schools are largely left out of research and policy discussions, exacerbating poverty, inequity, and isolation.”

What may work perfectly for a seventh grader in New York City may be really hard  for a seventh grader in the Mississippi Delta and their parents.

Our Assumptions

As we think about engaging parents, we often explore ideas from the perspective of a parent in an urban city.  What are some assumptions?  That parents can travel easily. Children are attending a close “neighborhood” school.  We assume schools with large populations, staff and resources. 

But as Education Week says in their article detailing the difficulty of rural school districts in a different context,

 “Rural school systems often enroll relatively small numbers of students distributed over large geographic areas. They often have trouble recruiting and retaining teachers, and most are far from institutions, like universities, that may be helpful partners in school improvement efforts.”

Bottom line is: rural schools have unique assets and needs.  Parent engagement might look a little different than it could in more urban areas.  As we work to bring every parent’s contributions, skills, and ideas into schools, we’ll need to plan for parent engagement for rural families appreciating their unique context.

Looking to build an effective parent organization – in a rural or urban community?

Author: Roquel Crutcher. Learn more about Roquel here!