Rural Mobility and Education Policy
From The Rural Blog:
Studies regarding student mobility — how often students switch schools — has usually been focused on poor urban areas, but new research suggests rural student mobility may be as big a problem. A recent analysis of five states by Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning suggests “in a small rural district, it takes a lot fewer kids moving around to play havoc with your staff assignment, special education supports and even course offerings,” Sarah Sparks of Education Week reports on the Inside School Research blog.
High student mobility can affect individual students as they struggle to adjust to news schools and other students as teachers and administrators work to catch up new students, Sparks writes. “Andrea Beesley, McREL senior director and lead author on the report, studied state-reported student mobility data for Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming,” Sparks writes. “The research team found that in Wyoming and North Dakota, rural districts had higher student mobility than did cities, though the smaller school populations in these districts may skew the sample.”
This topic lines up nicely with a guest post I did at The League in 2009 about the premise of a national curriculum. In the post I wrote:
A standardized curriculum also provides both students and parents with a higher degree of mobility. Parents could move to another state to take a new job with less fear of damaging their children’s educational progress. Kids could transfer from one school district to another within the same state and have a fairly seamless experience academically. The mobility provided to parents has an economic impact and the mobility provided to students has an academic impact. It’s a win – win.
While my personal feeling is that the best thing we can give our children is deep roots in a community, I also recognize that for some parents mobility is necessary in order to compete economically. With a national curriculum we remove at least one hurdle for parents that makes mobility more difficult.
I would also point out that this highlights a common misconception which is that rural folks generally stay in one place while urban dwellers move around a lot more. While it may be true that inter-urban mobility is common (within the same city) the studies cited indicate that long-distance mobility is more common in rural areas. One could argue that this indicates either a less diverse economy or a less diverse workforce where niche workers compete for a small pool of jobs and lack the additional skills to change careers if necessary.