It’s always enlightening to open your email account and see a note from Larry Lee.
Larry is an Alabaman, by chance of birth and now by choice. He thinks quite a bit about the state he loves and then tests what he thinks against facts and figures.
Lee’s contention is that Alabama’s “cotton culture” diminished the state’s demand for education — and that the state has lagged because it has neglected schools and learning. Last year, Larry wrote a three part series for the Yonder about the “legacy of a cotton culture.”
Larry has been interested in the employment maps we’ve been running in the Yonder and the relationship between schooling and jobs. And he is particularly interested in the differences between rural and urban schools.
A while back, I received a one-page list of what Larry called “Alabama Education Factoids.” Larry had spent weeks contacting every school in the state and comparing what he learned in those conversations to unemployment rates.
Here is what he found:
• Of the 20 counties (all are rural) with the highest unemployment rates in November 2010, 38.3 percent of schools in these systems are on the state’s list of 258 “low-achieving.”
• Of the 20 counties (7 are rural) with the lowest unemployment rates in November 2010, 12.8 percent of schools in these systems are on the low-achieving list.
• There are 740,000+ students in Alabama public schools. 54 percent of them attend schools in suburban locations, 35 percent attend schools in rural locations, 11 percent attend schools in urban (inner-city) locations.
• 45.1 percent of all suburban students receive free-reduced lunches. 65.5 percent of rural students receive free-reduced lunches. 88.1 percent of all urban students receive free-reduced lunches.
• Of the 258 schools on the low-achieving list, 106 are in rural locations, 85 are in urban locations, 67 are in suburban locations.
• In low-achieving rural schools, 74.6 percent of students receive free-reduced lunches. In low-achieving suburban schools, 67.4 percent of students receive free-reduced lunches. In low-achieving urban schools, 88.2 percent of students receive free-reduced lunches.
• There are schools in rural locations in all 67 Alabama counties.
Then Larry writes:
“Are schools low-performing because they are in poor counties or are counties poor because their schools are low-performing? Perhaps both answers are correct. But one thing is certain; the numbers indicate there is definitely a linkage.”