Extreme Poverty, Rural Schools, and Reform

A new report from the Southern Education Foundation focuses in on children living in extreme poverty–those from families with incomes of less than half of the poverty line, or $11,000 for a family of 4. 5.7 million American children–or 7.9% of people under age 18–live in extreme poverty. And the numbers are getting worse in the current economic downturn. Troubling news, and relevant to the reform conversation.

This report also draws particular attention to the challenges facing rural communities, where some of the highest rates of extreme child poverty are found–particularly in the South. Rural schools don’t get a lot of attention in education reform debates, which tend to focus on urban school districts. But many disadvantaged and minority children live in rural communities and attend rural schools that are failing them just as badly as their urban peers. We need to make sure we don’t ignore the unique challenges and reforms needed in these schools and the students they serve when we talk about education reform.

Sidenote: The SEF report cites a 2001 documentary, LaLee’s Kin, about extreme poverty and educational failure in the rural South. In a year when education documentaries are getting a lot of attention, I’d really like to see this one. But it doesn’t seem to be available on DVD. If anyone has any ideas for how it might be viewed, please e-mail me at myfirstnameATbellwethereducation.org).

3 Replies to “Extreme Poverty, Rural Schools, and Reform”

  1. Sorry. Spoke to soon. It seems to be on the way to being released though as Amazon and Zip.ca both have the film, it just isn’t available yet.

    You’re right. Reform talk does focus on urban schools. It’s as if we need to follow the inclusive practices of our classrooms when talking about reform 🙂

  2. I live in Montana and we have rural poverty also. We do not have the urban inner city schools that most educational reform tends to target. Instead, we have families working to keep their farms up and running. A lot of our poverty stricken schools are located on Indian Reservations, four of which just made the list to receive federal money to help them “refocus” their efforts in the classroom.

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