Journal article

The forgotten 20 percent: Achievement and growth in rural schools across the nation

October 2021

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By: Angela Johnson, Megan Kuhfeld, James Soland


Leveraging achievement data measured in the fall and spring of kindergarten through eighth grade for 840,000 students attending 8,800 public schools, the authors report novel evidence on how achievement and growth patterns differ between rural and nonrural schools. Rural students start kindergarten slightly ahead of nonrural students but fall behind by middle school. The divergence is driven by larger summer losses for rural students. In both rural and nonrural schools, the study provides additional evidence that Black–White achievement gaps widen during the school year. These findings highlight the importance of seasonal learning patterns in interpreting rural school performance.

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