Rural schools face distinct challenges, but they often confront issues similar to those of urban schools. Both types of schools have a difficult time attracting and retaining effective teachers, and students have difficulty accessing health and social services. Rural students, however, are often unable to take advantage of public health services and food distribution centers due to their location. They may also spend one to two hours commuting to school, which limits their ability to participate in afterschool enrichment and extracurricular activities.
Doris Terry Williams shows that full-service community schools are a viable solution to the issues that rural schools face in her report, “The Rural Solution,” released by the Center for American Progress in September. Community schools are public schools that provide services for students, parents, and their communities. The schools provide their students with school-based health services and afterschool learning opportunities as well as job training, English classes for language learners, and antipoverty assistance for adults. Public schools become the center of the community under the community school model.
Community schools also provide more opportunities for out-of-school time activities for students, families, and community members because they tend to stay open longer during the weekdays and are open on the weekends. Some community schools have gone further to formally incorporate out-of-school time activities for students into the school schedule by expanding learning time. Expanded learning time is a reform strategy that adds time to the school day, week, or year for all students in a participating school.
According to Isabel Owen in her report “Breaking the Mold,” also released by CAP in September, schools with low test scores often have shorter school days and years and are more likely to serve students in low-income areas. Several studies have indicated that high-performing charter schools credit time as a key factor in their success. Expanded learning time coupled with the community school model, therefore, could allow schools to address multiple factors in children’s lives, raise achievement, and strengthen the school and community.
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