Schools and Youth
Rural schools have strong community support, and function as centers of the community. Small school and class sizes help foster quality connections between teachers and students. Rural communities want to increase schools' responsiveness to local needs by including social issues, physical and nutritional health, entrepreneurship, agriculture, and life skills such as financial literacy in the curriculum.
Current national trends towards centralizing the education system and the emphasis on standardized testing are mismatched to the needs of rural areas. All youth, regardless of whether or not they are college-bound, need exposure to a full range of opportunities and possibilities.
The Rural Vision Project recommends using the school as a community center, ensuring a high quality education, and providing a bridge out of poverty.
The development of partnerships between rural school districts, counties, community colleges, and public and private youth agencies may allow small rural schools to expand opportunities and maximize use of limited resources.
- Hands-on activities - including experiential and service learning - can encourage school-community collaboration
- The role of schools can expand to outreach, involving youth organizations, to provide support for the physical, mental, and emotional health of youth
Other goals include:
- More effective use of school buildings as community resources
- Develop a flexible curriculum, with experiential, school-community collaborations and service learning opportunities
- Educate for local needs, with increased awareness of local workforce development needs and career opportunities
- Reform tax structure and create alternative funding models
- Compete for grants
- Develop school-based health centers
Rural Vision Project participants consistently identified BOCES as a valuable rural institution that prepares students for the labor force. However, BOCES and other forms of Career and Technical Education (CTE) suffer from a negative image and lack of respect. Once labelled as either CTE or college-bound, students have little opportunity to explore or choose other options. Moreover, youth who are perceived to be more talented are often trained to be "exported" away from the local community - at the expense of the needs of other students.
Other challenges include:
- Overemphasis on Regents exams, standardized tests, and "teaching to the test"
- Mismatch between local needs/resources and current curriculum
- Funding and taxation concerns
- Travel distance and lack of transportation may create a disincentive for after-school activities and services
- Lack of stable leadership due to retention difficulties