Why Rural Schools Have Become 'Engines of Exodus'

Why Rural Schools Have Become 'Engines of Exodus'

Daniella HallDaniella Hall

To address the phenomenon of “rural brain drain,” schools must work with their local communities, rather than considering themselves separate from the cycle of economic decline, researchers wrote in an Education Week commentary.

In “How Education is Failing Rural America,” Catharine Biddle, assistant professor of educational leadership at the University of Maine, and Daniella Hall, a post-doctoral fellow in Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy, argued that “a college degree in rural America is now synonymous with leaving and having no way to sustainably come back.”

One rural leader told the researchers: “We spend a lot of money to educate our kids, and then they move elsewhere. The joke is, ‘We dare you to make a living here.’”

And yet, solutions exist, beginning with “greater attention to and investment in rural America,” they wrote. Rural schools themselves can be drivers of economic development; empowering the community also has a role.

“Citizenship education in rural places must teach rural youths to share their voices outside of the voting booth and speak back to policy makers too willing to overlook the ways in which rural communities have been short-changed for decades,” the authors wrote.  

Hall, who has taught in diverse settings ranging from a one-room schoolhouse on a Maine island to the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico, researches rural school district organization, governance and policy implementation. 

She is currently working with James Spillane, the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Professor in Learning and Organizational Change, on a comparative study investigating the relationship between various types of school systems and instructional improvement.

Hall has been a researcher with the Center on Rural Education and Communities and The Consortium for Policy Research in Education. She is especially interested in understanding the relationship between school context and poverty, and the implications for educational leaders.

Read the entire commentary in Education Week. 

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 3/3/17