Report Shows Charter Schools Have Lasting and Positive Impact in Rural Areas

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The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Highlights the Portability of the Charter Model

WASHINGTON, D.C.-The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is today announcing the release of its most recent Issue Brief, Beyond City Limits: Expanding Public Charter Schools in Rural America. As lawmakers in states with predominately rural areas grapple with the idea of enacting charter school laws, this brief is meant to be used as a guide for policymakers, charter support organizations, and communities that want to offer high-quality options that can meet the educational needs of rural students. The Issue Brief dissects common challenges faced in rural public education, the current landscape of rural charter schools, and also discusses some key hurdles that must be overcome in order to launch a successful public charter school in a small community.

Additionally, innovative approaches that charter schools have used to achieve success in rural areas are highlighted, which offer real-life examples and policy recommendations for achieving charter school quality and scale. "Rural students comprise a vital segment of the American public education system; however, their educational needs are not being met," said Ursula Wright, interim president & CEO. One in four students, which equates to over 11 million children, attend rural public schools and one in five of the nations lowest performing schools are in rural areas. There is a real focus required to ensure rural schools are meeting the academic needs of their students and charter schools can help by providing high-quality options. In 2009-10, there were 785 rural charter schools in operation, comprising 16 percent of all charter schools nationwide, enrolling more than a quarter-million students. This is in comparison to more than 30,000 district run rural schools, which accounts for 33 percent of all traditional schools.

In addition to citing examples of successful charter schools located in rural areas, the report highlights the common challenges faced by tall rural public schools - charter and traditional - including budget constraints, course offerings, recruitment, special education resources, and transportation. An example of a successful charter school in a rural area can be found in Paradox Valley, Colorado. The community saw its local district school close in 1999 a result of declining population, forcing students to travel three hours to attend the nearest public school. In response, the local community founded the Paradox Valley Charter School to not only address logistical issues, but also take a stance toward preserving its distinctive rural culture. During the 2010-2011 school year, Paradox served 54 students ranging from pre-K to eighth grade, and consistently reaches its adequate yearly progress accountability benchmarks.

There are a number of ways that policymakers and charter support organizations can help expand high-quality charter schools in rural communities. For policymakers, laws allowing for public charter schools and then equitable funding of those schools must be at the forefront. The further development of rural charter schools is contingent upon lawmakers setting a level playing field that is conducive to growth. State charter support organizations are instrumental in making sure that rural communities are well-informed on the potential benefits of charter schools.

The Rural Issue Brief can be found online at and national and statewide public charter school data can be found on the Public Charter School Dashboard : For more information, please contact: Stephanie Grisham (480) 707-7434

About the National Alliance

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the charter school movement. Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter sector. For more information, please visit our website at