The Politics of Educational Opportunity in Rural Contexts

Edited by:
Sheneka M. Williams, The University of Georgia
Ain A. Grooms, The University of Georgia

The purpose of this book is to examine how educational policy has impacted the landscape of rural education over the past 60 years. On May 17, 1954, this country will commemorate 60 years of de jure school desegregation. Given that Brown v. Board of Education is a compilation of cases, including some rural, it is important to edit a book that examines progress (or lack thereof) in educational opportunity for students educated in rural districts. Essentially, some rural districts struggle with ways in which to provide all students with an equitable education. In an effort to provide an equal educational opportunity, many districts have turned to consolidated schools as a means of moving past “separate and unequal.” As early as the 1800s, school consolidation was thought to provide a more thorough education by eliminating small schools and creating larger ones (Potter, 1987) as a means of providing a more efficient education to students. As such, small schools have been closed and consolidated into one larger school to include more students in one building, thus making the case for improved curricular and instructional options and economic efficiency. Arguments for school consolidation suggest that the benefits lie in fiscal efficiency and higher quality education (Howley, Johnson, and Petrie, 2011). However, research against school consolidation argues that the purported benefits of consolidation are also detriments (Cubberly, 1922). The small schools literature argues against large, comprehensive high schools and larger class sizes. Given today’s economic downturn, many districts are returning to school consolidation as a mechanism for combating budget restraints. School districts in Tennessee, New York, Arkansas, and Kentucky have embraced school consolidation as a means of providing a more cost efficient education. Although these states have sought consolidation as a means to cure economic hardships, arguments against consolidation suggest that most of the benefits of school consolidation have been achieved (Howley, et al, 2011). Research suggests that impoverished regions may benefit from smaller schools, and may undergo irreparable damage if consolidation occurs (Howley, et al, 2011). School and/or district consolidation is not the only concern of rural school districts, and given the dearth of research and media attention on rural education, this book serves to bring renewed attention to the various issues affecting a significant portion of our nation’s public school children.

This book will be organized along three foci: political, economic, and sociological perspectives. We choose to organize the book along these dimensions, as they are the pillars of education policy, although rarely discussed and examined in a rural context. This book makes a major contribution to the field of educational policy, in general, and to the topic of educational opportunity, in particular. Next year marks the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, and several smaller, rural districts informed the major court case. This book will be used as a gauge to measure progress in educational opportunity provided for students in rural contexts. Specific chapter topics and potential authors are outlined in Table 1. We selected potential authors based on their area of academic expertise and their scholarly publication record in relation to the topic. We also selected potential authors to reflect diversity among authors and authors’ institutions. The audience for this book includes the academic and education policy audiences, both at the national and state levels, and this book should be marketed to the following Special Interests Groups associated with the American Educational Research Association: Rural Education SIG, Politics of Education Association, the School Finance SIG, and the Sociology of Education SIG. As a result, we expect readers to use this book in their education policy and teacher education classes. We also envision that readers will use this book to frame larger discussions around educational opportunity.

Tentative Timeline
October 30 – Call to Authors (A) / Open Call (B)
December 10 – Proposals Due (5 pages)
January 20 – Proposal Decisions
April 15 – First Draft due
April 20 to May 20 – Chapters under review
July 15 – Final Chapters due
September 1 – Final Book sent to publisher

Introduction 1. Rural Education; Educational Opportunity, Williams and Grooms. Context 2. Rural Education, Grooms. Policy 3. School Governance (district consolidation; school board elections), Williams. 4. Achievement, Xitao Fan. 5. Curriculum (distance learning), Craig and/or Aimee Howley. 6 Rural response to federal policy, John Sipple. Resource Allocation 7. Teacher Effectiveness (quality; recruitment; retention), Ed Fuller. 8. School Funding, John Dayton and/or Eric Houck. 9. Financial aid and college access, Stella Flores. Sociology 10. Race/Social Class Variations, V. Roscigno. 11. Health, nutrition, and educational opportunities, Norma Olvera. Conclusion 12. Moving forward, john powell or James Anderson.

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