Voices from Rural Oklahoma: Where's Education Headed on the Plain?
by Juliet Squire & Kelly Robson, Bellwether Education Partners
With nearly one in three students statewide attending a rural school, rural education must be a top priority for Oklahoma’s state policymakers. Students deserve a high-quality education, and the economy depends on it. Unfortunately, data suggest that many of Oklahoma’s rural schools are not providing their students with the academic and non-academic skills necessary for them to be successful in their next steps after high school.
Over the years, Oklahoma’s policymakers have implemented a number of measures to address the challenges facing rural schools. But what is often missing from conversations about how to fix these problems are the voices of the students, parents, community members, and business leaders living in these communities and experiencing the problems firsthand.
In our new report, “Voices from Rural Oklahoma: Where’s Education Headed on the Plain?”, we seek to raise the collective voices of rural community members and convey their thoughts and perspectives to policymakers in the state capital. Through a series of 12 focus groups and nine interviews, we spoke with more than 80 individuals living in rural communities throughout Oklahoma. We asked them about the issues facing the schools in their communities, including topics ranging from course options for students in high school to students’ post-college job prospects to their perspectives on policies such as charter schools and consolidation.