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ERIC Number: ED497221
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Jun
Pages: 21
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 33
How the Government Defines "Rural" Has Implications for Education Policies and Practices. Issues & Answers. REL 2007-010
Arnold, Michael L.; Biscoe, Belinda; Farmer, Thomas W.; Robertson, Dylan L.; Shapley, Kathy L.
Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest (NJ1)
Clearly defining what rural means has tangible implications for public policies and practices in education, from establishing resource needs to achieving the goals of No Child Left Behind in rural areas. The word "rural" has many meanings. It has been defined in reference to population density, geographic features, and level of economic and industrial development. This report documents national and state definitions of rural and considers their application to education policies and practices. Defining rural accurately is especially important for addressing two kinds of education policy questions. One involves identifying the resources needs of rural populations and monitoring and evaluating effective use. Who receives resources and who does not? Another concerns whether rural schools are achieving the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Are there obstacles related to being rural that make achieving the goals more difficult, and if so, what accommodations can be equitably made for rural schools to help them achieve the goals? Six definitions and classification systems for rural were identified through searches of major federal agency documents and databases. In order of use, beginning with the most common they are: (1) U.S. Census Bureau classifications, which define rural by geographic features, population, and as a residual; (2) Metropolitan status codes, which define rural relative to a core-based statistical area; (3) Urban-rural continuum codes, which define rural by population and proximity to urban areas; (4) Metro-centric locale codes, which are used primarily for statistical procedures; (5) Urban-centric locale codes, which improve the reliability and precision of locale code assignment; and (6) Core-based statistical areas, which are statistically defined geographic areas. Several issues need to be considered in applying definitions of rural to education policies and practices. One issue is the unit of analysis. The way rural is defined and specified (by school or district) is likely to yield different portrayals of rural students, which can affect education policies and practices. A second issue involves geographic and political differences among regions. What is considered rural in one part of the country may not be considered rural in another. Demographic changes in rural American are a third issue. Some communities are gaining population, while others are losing population. School districts experiencing growth are noting an increase in student diversity. Several questions arise from this study that warrant further investigation. Key terms is appended. (Contains 2 boxes.) [This report was prepared for the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education by Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest, formerly known as Southwest Regional Educational Laboratory (SEDL), administered by Edvance Research, Inc.]
Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest. Available from: Edvance Research. 9901 IH-10 West Suite 700, San Antonio, TX 78230. Tel: 877-338-2623; Fax: 210-558-4183; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Institute of Education Sciences (ED), Washington, DC.
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: No Child Left Behind Act 2001
IES Funded: Yes
IES Cited: ED556748; ED565803