What Makes A Good Rural School

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Why do some rural schools succeed? Three Alabamians look and find some answers.


found here. Those who would like a hard copy of the report can contact Larry Lee at larry.lee@agi.alabama.gov. (And the ten rural Alabama schools are listed at the end of this story.)

There were four points, however, that struck me in reading about these outstanding schools.

1. These are community schools. “In the opinion of many education leaders, what happens outside the classroom in the form of ‘community involvement’ may be as important as what goes on in the classroom,” writes Larry Lee. And he finds that in these good rural schools, it’s hard to find the line that divides community from school. “Education goes beyond the walls of instruction and much of our school success is determined by the community’s ownership.” 

In these successful community schools, local newspaper editors visit and write about schools regularly. The community raises money for schools. Local institutions cooperate with the schools. For example, Calcedeaver Elementary uses the gym at the nearby Aldersgate United Methodist Church for plays, pageants and PTO meetings. In Pine Hill, Alabama, the mayor once served on the school board.

Parents trust the schools because the schools have earned that trust. “If the parent trusts the school and understands that you are truly doing all you can to help their child, then they are far more likely to support you when there is a discipline issue,” said John Kirby, principal at Dutton Elementary.

2. “There is something in the air” in these good schools. For one thing, these schools are clean. That doesn’t mean they are new, because most of these ten good schools are not. The oldest was built in 1924; the newest in 1994. They are all kept neat and tidy, Larry Lee found.

More than just cleanliness, however, these schools have a feel. There’s something special going on there — as Lee writes, “there is something in the air.”