Regional Education Laboratory (REL) Southwest Bridge Event on College Readiness in Rural Schools

Preparing students for college and careers includes exposing them to a range of educational and employment opportunities. In rural communities, the geographic distance to universities and businesses can present a challenge for students and schools. However, strong community relationships and partnerships can help mitigate these challenges, particularly in rural areas. These are some of the issues discussed at the October 3, REL Southwest bridge event about challenges and successes in rural schools and communities related to supporting students in the postsecondary transition.

Dr. Judith L. Meece, education professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, presented findings from the Rural High School Aspirations Study, an Institute of Education Sciences study in 73 rural high schools. The study examined students’ future aspirations, high school preparations, and the influence of school, family, and community factors on aspirations and preparations. The study discussed challenges in rural high schools, including limited advanced course offerings, information about college, and college preparation activities, and the outmigration of the most educated in rural communities.  Over 70 percent of the students who participated in the study aspired to attain a college or advanced degree, but only 16 percent were in a college preparatory academic program. However, Dr. Meece also discussed assets in rural schools such as less academic tracking and close relationships.

In addition, two assistant superintendents from rural school districts in the Southwest shared their successes and challenges in helping rural youth transition to college and careers. Dr. Debi Crawford from Hawkins Independent School District in Texas shared its college and career ready initiative in which the district pays half of a student’s dual credit course fees and pays for one ACT or SAT exam for every student. She also highlighted efforts to expand students’ horizons through traveling and technology. Ms. Ronda Townsend from Seminole Public Schools in Oklahoma discussed how her district established a partnership with Seminole State College and various tribal officials to help meet the needs of American Indian students.

Clarisse Haxton is a researcher and technical assistance liaison with the College and Career Readiness and Success Center.

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