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A National Report

The obstacles for rural districts are great.

Graduation rates of rural districts range from a low of 52 percent in South Carolina to 100 percent in Nevada, according to the report “Why Rural Matters,” which the Rural School and Community Trust released in November 2009.

Alaska, Georgia, New Mexico, Arizona and South Carolina graduate fewer than six in 10 of their rural students, and the highest concentrations of rural poverty and minority students are in smaller states where rural people are either a majority or a very large minority. These states, largely in the Southeast and Southwest, have high rural student poverty rates and often have rural minority student rates of more than 40 percent.

Some rural districts in other parts of the country, from New England to the Midwest and Alaska, also have trouble recruiting and retaining teachers. Even in better-off districts, it’s hard to keep them, says Marty Strange, policy program director at the Rural School and Community Trust.

Rural districts are the “farm system” for teachers, he says. “It’s where they go to get trained and prove they can do the job, and then they go to places that pay more and are easier to live in,” he explains.