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North Carolina is second only to Texas in total population living in rural communities. Eighty of the state’s 100 counties are classified as rural, and 87 of our 115 public school districts are in rural counties. Thirty-six percent of all students in the state attend rural schools.

Rural North Carolina has been hard hit by major structural changes in the economy over the last few decades, including automation, industry consolidation, and offshoring. The increasingly challenging economic conditions affecting our rural areas have had a dramatic impact on the educational resources and opportunities available to students. At the same time, our rural districts are strengthened by strong family, school, and community ties; dedicated educators and school leaders; and innovative education strategies that all districts in the state can learn from.

Over the course of six months, beginning in October 2019, the Public School Forum convened stakeholders from across North Carolina and across the education continuum to discuss strategies to support our state’s rural students. Study Group XVII participants shared their experiences, perspectives, and solutions for addressing the unique needs of our rural communities, culminating in a set of recommendations for policy and practice focused on four key domains: school funding, teacher recruitment and retention, access to broadband internet, and postsecondary attainment.

The work of Study Group XVII was guided by four co-chairs with expertise in rural education:

  • Dr. Shirley Carraway, Retired Public School Superintendent
  • Dr. Jeni Corn, Director of Strategic Initiatives, myFutureNC
  • Dr. Doris Terry Williams, Senior Fellow, Rural School and Community Trust
  • Patrick Woodie, President, NC Rural Center
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The Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the Gates Foundation provided support for Study Group XVII. The Public School Forum thanks our Study Group XVII co-chairs, presenters, and participants for their engagement and guidance in developing these recommendations. 

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