Recommendations from the North Star State: Rural Administrators Speak Out

Julia M. Williams, Gerry Nierengarten


Administrators in America’s rural school districts are uniquely challenged to meet increased achievement expectations despite decreasing resources. Mandated reform initiatives, population decline, and the complex formulas used to distribute tax-based funding have disproportionately affected rural schools. In this mixed-methods study, researchers first surveyed K-12 administrators and then conducted focus groups across six regions in Minnesota to determine the nature of the challenges specific to rural administrators and to document their perceived needs for interventions, training, and policy changes. The study identified two categories of common concern: student achievement and fiscal management. Within the category of student achievement, administrators identified four areas of need for assistance: testing and adequate yearly progress, achievement for all, staff and professional development, and data analysis. Within the category of fiscal management, needs for assistance included balancing budgets and transportation/sparsity policy. Analysis of the data gathered indicates statewide implications for professional development and policy review.


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