School Committee Endorses Resolution in Support of MA Rural Schools
At its November 14 meeting, the Hatfield School Committee voted to endorse a resolution presented by the Massachusetts Rural Schools Initiative. The Massachusetts Rural Schools Initiative is made up of several small rural school districts throughout Massachusetts. The Hatfield Public Schools is a member of this Coalition. The purpose of the Coalition is to bring awareness of both the benefits, as well as the issues, that are unique to small rural school districts. Below are some of the benefits of small rural schools that the Coalition has shared with both the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and with State lawmakers:
- Research suggests that students in small schools tend to outperform their peers in larger schools (all other variables being equal)
- The removal of a school from a community can have a significant negative effect on the social structures of a community
- Small rural schools often serve as centers for civic education and community employment--the school is one of the institutions that binds together smaller communities
- Community schools bring people together for social activities, unite people for a common purpose and provide a collective identity to community members
- The presence of a school in small rural communities is associated with much higher property values
- Rural communities with schools are economically more viable
- Rural communities that are supported by the presence of a school are economically and civically more robust
- Schools are a crucial part of a rural community and its development
- 52% of small school principals report either no or minor discipline problems; only 14% of big school principals report the same
- Student tardiness and absentee rates are lower in small schools
- Small schools are manageable: administrators know their students and the families; disciplinary problems are often detected and resolved earlier
- Small schools have a significantly greater ability to graduate students than do larger schools
- U.S. Dept. of Ed. shows that rural school dropout rates are substantially lower than those in urban areas and are nearly equal to those in affluent suburban schools
- Small rural schools add value to student learning and community cohesion
- Extracurricular participation rates are higher and more varied at small schools; alienation from the school environment is lower. Participation in extracurricular activities is a significant indicator of academic success and is often a determinant of attendance and dropout rates. It is also correlated with positive attitudes and enhanced social behavior
State policy makers often tend to address the needs of larger suburban and urban school districts and are unaware of the issues facing the smaller rural schools. Some of these issues include: declining enrollments, stagnant state aide, ever increasing operating costs, and trying to meet numerous state mandates. Often times, these mandates are created to address issues effecting larger urban school districts. Unless the issues impacting small rural schools are addressed by policy makers there will be more and more pressure on these schools to either consolidate or close all together.
The overall purpose of the Coalition is to remind State policy makers that there is an intrinsic value in small rural schools and that these schools have to be supported.
Below is the resolution approved by the Hatfield School Committee on November 14, 2016:
Resolution In Support of MA Rural Schools
Strong local communities are the best habitat for excellence in education and education is the responsibility of the whole community.
WHEREAS, All children should have access to equitable and equal educational opportunities, regardless of where they live.
WHEREAS, All students should be engaged in excellent academic programs that guide them to understand the place where they live and help to build stronger and better communities.
WHEREAS, Schools should be accessible to students’ homes, governed by people they serve with leadership that reflects the composition of the community, financed to ensure excellent outcomes, maintained, and designed for full community participation.
WHEREAS, Teachers should be prepared to instruct and lead in a rural setting, content and culturally competent, able to connect learning with place, and compensated fairly.
WHEREAS, Assessment should be designed to inform and influence learning and instruction, measuring student progress and teacher performance using multiple methods.
WHEREAS, Technology should be used to increase interaction between and among local places, with universal access to telecommunications services.
THEREFORE, be it resolved that the hatfield School Committee commits support of the MA Rural Schools Initiative.
Violence and Discipline Problems in U.S. Public Schools: 1996-97, U.S. Department of Education, 1999.
Report of the Small Schools Group, Vermont Department of Education, 1998.
School Size, School Climate, and Student Performance, Kathleen Cotton, Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, 1997.
Review of Research on School District Size, Sibyll Carnochan, University of California, Los Angeles, 1997.
The Academic Effectiveness of Small-Scale Schooling: An Update, Craig Howley, ERIC, Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools, 1994.
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What Difference Do Local Schools Make? A Literature Review and Bibliography, Priscilla Salant and Anita Waller, Annenberg Rural Challenge Policy Program, 1998.