Students in Rural Areas

Addressing the Challenges of Rural Students

In the complicated American educational system, rural districts are frequently overlooked, even though 9.3 million students—or one in every five nationwide students—attend a rural school. Because of their small populations when compared to larger single districts in more urban areas, these districts are often overlooked or ignored altogether. In terms of funding, national and state legislation tends to be applied more directly to larger districts to make the most positive change possible for the greatest number of students. Rural districts, on the other hand, account for a significant proportion of all students in the United States when taken as a whole.

Despite the unique challenges faced by students in rural districts, students in these districts consistently perform at or above the level of their peers on state and national assessments. According to the Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, 22.4 percent of students in non-metropolitan schools were in poverty in 2018, compared to 17.3 percent of students in metro schools. Although these students statistically outperform their suburban or urban peers on assessments, their school experience differs in several ways from that of their suburban or urban peers.

Starting with a lack of access to high-quality reading materials and instruction at a young age (especially in preschool), a lack of consistent access to medical care, the impact of opioid abuse and child homelessness in low-income and rural communities, and other factors, a large portion of rural students must contend with. There are a variety of strategies that can be implemented to meet the unique needs of rural students to ensure that they have access to educational opportunities.


Teachers are better able to assess the specific needs of their students and address them with a purpose if they involve all components of the learning process, including teachers, students, and families, in the process. Teachers are better able to design learning experiences that are tailored to the needs of their students when positive bonds or relationships are established between the components.

Teachers make meaningful connections with their students inside the classroom, using a variety of strategies to foster strong bonds and a sense of community among the students and teachers. In some cases, it can be more difficult to establish those meaningful bonds with family members. Regularly calling parents, sending out weekly or monthly newsletters, and meeting with parents in person can all help to foster a strong focus on learning in the classroom. Families are frequently the most important factor in a student’s success in the classroom in rural communities.

Regular, open, and honest communication with families about your expectations for learning and behavior can have a tremendously positive impact and help to create an environment that is conducive to academic success. This promotes the development of an accountability system, involves families in the process, and aids in the development of student agency within the classroom.


It can be difficult for rural students to make connections between their new learning and their previous experiences. Rural students frequently lack life experiences that other students may have because of the typically isolated nature of their families and communities, which can limit their ability to fully benefit from a diverse curriculum. As a result, rural students may struggle to fully benefit from a diverse curriculum. Aside from that, rural students do not have access to a wide range of accelerated courses that may be more readily available in urban or suburban school districts, such as Advanced Placement (AP) and dual credit opportunities.

While collaborating with district administration to provide these resources in a rural district can be a time-consuming and difficult process, administrators are generally open to hearing about potential solutions when they are presented with them. Advocating on behalf of your students can assist in persuading administrators to make decisions that will improve the current situation.

The socio-economic circumstances of some families in rural areas, as well as the lack of financial flexibility in rural school districts to allocate funds to address these issues, result in rural students consistently lacking consistent access to high-quality early reading opportunities. If, for example, a large number of students in a rural setting have access to local libraries that are not far from their homes, their school districts may not have the time or resources to establish beneficial relationships with the library system that would enable and encourage families and students to take advantage of those resources, particularly at the preschool level.

When it comes to the classroom, teachers have the training and ability to modify materials and design curricula that allow for greater access to learning at a low or no cost while having a high level of positive impact on students’ learning. The inability to decode and comprehend complex grade-level texts in every subject is a significant barrier for the majority of struggling students. Rural students who may struggle to access the content will have a better chance of success if you modify the texts that specific students are required to read, or if you scaffold their learning by front-loading important vocabulary or other prerequisite information.

Moreover, a lack of funding in rural districts may mean that many students do not have regular access to technology, which would enable them to participate in more engaging learning activities in the classroom as well.


These strategies for involving rural students are based on the development of a feedback loop that includes teachers, students, and parents, among other stakeholders. An effective feedback loop can be a valuable asset in the classroom in a variety of ways when it is designed with care. Every week or month, it should concentrate on setting and clarifying learning expectations, as well as providing comments that are specifically focused on creating opportunities for students to revise their work to gain a deeper understanding of the material. Parents should be equipped with sufficient knowledge to hold their children accountable for their learning.

Teachers must make a concerted effort to actively eliminate all forms of doubt from the rural classroom, and they must strive to maintain open lines of communication that will allow them to implement an engaging and accessible curriculum. Removing uncertainty from the curriculum requires that both families and students understand your expectations for their learning, what content is being addressed, and how they might succeed within the learning environment to remove doubt from the curriculum.

Even though educators in rural districts are capable of designing curricula in this manner, many may lack the necessary experience or training to do so. It is possible that a shift in the understanding of the nature of learning will be required, which may necessitate a period of adjustment to new teaching styles. A strong relationship between all of the stakeholders in a student’s education is essential for rural students in particular, and teachers can help to create and foster this dynamic by taking a few deliberate steps toward a more collaborative and transparent classroom.