Journal Issue: Excellence in the Classroom Volume 17 Number 1 Spring 2007
Assessing the Scope of the Rural Sector
Estimates of the number of rural districts and schools in the United States vary according to how they are defined. According to the Common Core of Data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 7,824 school districts were classified as rural in 2002–03—close to half (49 percent) of the school districts in the nation.12 These rural districts operated 24,350 schools, served more than 7.6 million students, and employed more than 523,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers.13 And these estimates may be undercounts because many rural areas are embedded within school districts in other categories, including urban districts. Table 1 reports data collected as part of the NCES’s 2003–04 School and Staffing Survey (SASS). The table acknowledges the complexity of the definition question by providing separate breakdowns according to the characteristics of the community served and the size of the school. Clearly, rural schools, which are defined in different ways in the table, represent a significant share of schools in the nation.