The Rural Advantage

The sensibility of grounding educational activities in community and neighborhood is obvious, and the advantage here goes to the small rural school.

The Rural Advantage

Rural school districts are as diverse as the communities they serve and the students they educate. Their unique histories, cultures, and landscapes result in community-based schools that defy categorization. Still, there are common themes:

  • Rural schools are community hubs and bring people together.
  • Rural schools encourage student participation and ownership.
  • Rural schools serve as centers for the arts.
  • Rural schools are catalysts for the Farm to School movement.

Lorna Jimerson's research-based “The Hobbit Effect” highlighted the real benefits of rural schools. Jimerson’s important work (2006) summarized a wide range of findings supporting the efficacy of smaller schools. For example, Jimerson reports that when socio-economic factors are taken into account, children in smaller schools are academically more successful, have higher graduation rates, take more advanced courses, and participate in extra-curricular activities to a higher degree. Overall, Jimerson's extensive review of research found ten "research-based reasons” why small schools work:

  1. There is greater participation in extra-curricular activities, and that is linked to academic success.
  2. Small schools are safer.
  3. Kids feel they belong.
  4. Small class size allows more individualized instruction.
  5. Good teaching methods are easier to implement.
  6. Teachers feel better about their work.
  7. Mixed-ability classes avoid condemning some students to low expectations.
  8. Multiage classrooms promote personalized learning and encourage positive social interactions.
  9. Smaller districts mean less bureaucracy.
  10. More grades in one school alleviate many problems of transitions to new schools.

Why does your small school work? What is your rural advantage? Contact us at to share your story!

Read all of The Hobbit Effect: Why Small Works in Public Schools. This report is located on the Rural School and Community Trust's website.