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Equity & Place: A Rural Education Research Agenda

2GJM71R Index, WA, USA - September 08, 2021; An International manufactured school bus parked on the street outside the rural school in Index Washington
Shining a light on equity challenges and innovative solutions in rural schools and communities
  • Client
    Spencer Foundation
  • Dates
    2022 - 2023


Rural America—often stereotyped—is full of nuance.

Rural America is typically portrayed as a population of aging white farmers sprinkled throughout the middle of the country. The truth is that in some surveys, almost a quarter of rural residents identify as people of color. The difference between stereotype and reality has harmful repercussions. Federal and state policies that favor urban development and educational opportunity over rural investment perpetuate rural stereotypes and lead to rural communities' political, socioeconomic, and educational disenfranchisement. There is also a lack of rural-specific research to address racial and other inequities in rural schools and communities. As a result, the needs of diverse rural learners, rural educators, and other rural community members remain unmet.


A NORC project aims to bring more voices to the table concerning equity in rural settings. 

The Spencer Foundation recognizes that there is a stark knowledge gap between what is known about educational equity in rural and urban schools, respectively. With 20% of American children attending rural schools, the need for place-based, equity-centered research is significant. The foundation issued a research grant allowing NORC at the University of Chicago to explore new ways of framing and evaluating the intersection of racial and spatial equity in rural education research, policy, and practice. 

To support equitable educational change in rural schools, NORC is partnering with rural scholars at three partner universities—Kansas State, Clemson, and East Carolina—to conduct regional, community-based focus groups across the country and identify resources, policies, and innovative practices already underway in rural communities. The study will document the diverse experiences and perspectives of indigenous elders and scholars, Black and Latinx community leaders, and others who are dismantling racial injustice in rural places but go unnoticed in rural education research. 

NORC will also conduct a comprehensive literature review of the last 20 years of rural education research to identify equity research in the field. It will be paired with policy analysis from the same timeframe to produce a clear-eyed view of past rural research, associated legislation, and educational practices to help bring about a more equitable future.


Researchers will create an inclusive education research agenda. 

Findings from this landscape study will be used to outline a forward-thinking, transdisciplinary rural education research agenda and spur collaborative grant submissions with rural schools at the center. The study will also produce publicly available community asset maps that enable systematic implementation of practices, policies, and interventions across racially and geographically diverse rural spaces. It will also provide a critical review of federal and state educational policies relevant to rural education.

Principal Investigator

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