Rural Schools & Community Development

Traditionally, rural schools have played a central role in their communities by providing both a basic education necessary for participation in a democracy and by playing a vital role  in the development and maintenance of a community sense of identity. Whether it is through the use of school facilities for community events, athletic competitions, music programs, or drama performances, schools are intimately linked with their communities. This provides a central role for schools in the further cultural and economic development of their communities.

The links listed below provide a glimpse of the extant research on community development within the context of rural schools as well as providing case study samples of how some rural schools are actively participating in the development of their communities.

Census 2010 Rural and Urban Classification

Center for American Progress

Center for Rural Affairs

Connecting Rural School Improvement and Community Development

Education Northwest

Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Area

Rural Schools Partnership

The Rural School and Community Trust

USDA: What is Rural?


What Does a School Mean to a Community? Assessing the Social and Economic Benefits of Schools to Rural Villages in New York
Thomas A. Lyson (Fall 2002)
Results of this study indicate that for the smallest rural communities, the presence of a school was associated with many social and economic benefits, showing that schools serve as important markers of social and economic viability and vitality, and that the money that might be saved through school consolidation could be forfeited in lost taxes, declining property values, and lost business.

The Role of Education: Promoting the Economic & Social Vitality of Rural America
Southern Rural Development Center (January 2005)
The USDA's Economic Research Service and the Southern Rural Development Center (in partnership with the Rural School and Community Trust) hosted a two-day workshop in Spring 2003. A distinguished group of social scientists, along with practitioners and policy-analysts, delivered and discussed current research being undertaken on a variety of rural education and economic development-related subjects. The report entitled The Role of Education: Promoting the Economic & Social Vitality of Rural America, features nine research briefs presented over the course of this two-day symposium.

Education as a Rural Development Strategy
USDA Economic Research Service (2005)
Amber Waves, a magazine of the USDA’s Economic Research Service, covers production agriculture, food safety and nutrition, the food industry, rural economies, agricultural trade, and farm-related environmental issues. The November, 2005 issue contains the article “Education as a Rural Development Strategy” and can be accessed through the ERS website in pdf format by clicking the link above.