Rural School Consolidation: History, Research Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations

Joe Bard, Clark Gardener, Regi Wieland


The consolidation of rural schools in the United States has been a controversial topic for policy-makers, school administrators, and rural communities since the 1800s. At issue in the consolidation movement have been concerns of efficiency, economics, student achievement, school size, and community identity. Throughout the history of schooling in America, school consolidation has been a way to solve rural issues in the eyes of policy makers and many education officials. Today, faced with declining enrollments and financial cutbacks, many rural schools and communities continue to deal with challenges associated with possible school reorganizations and consolidations. This paper, developed by the NREA Consolidation Task Force, provides a review of the literature on rural school consolidation, defines consolidation, addresses current research and issues related to consolidation with respect to school size, economies of scale, and student achievement, and concludes with proposed recommendations for the NREA Executive Board.


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