Biddle speaks with The 74 about rural education gap

Catharine Biddle, an assistant professor of educational leadership at the University of Maine, spoke with The 74 for the article, “Solving the rural education gap: Experts weigh in on new report’s findings tying gap to prosperity.” A study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service determined that whether students in rural public school districts graduate and how they fare in the workforce, are linked to their rural education experiences. Between 2000 and 2015, urban adults with at least a bachelor’s degree jumped from 26 to 33 percent, while the share in rural areas grew from 15 to 19 percent, according to the study. Biddle said she wasn’t surprised by the data, adding rural areas have traditionally been structured differently, in ways that provide resources to urban areas and support the larger economy. Biddle said it’s past time to reconfigure what’s offered in rural districts to what is needed in the workplace. Education in rural places is “complicit in the systems that are making it difficult for people to live sustainably in rural communities today,” she said. Spurring economic development in rural areas is a large-scale policy challenge that will require business leaders, elected representatives, educators, and families to work together, Biddle said. “Policymakers have not given traditionally rural areas a great deal of thought when they’re putting policies together,” she said. “There’s been this kind of laissez-faire attitude to these areas, and I think there is a feeling, at least within the communities that I’ve worked in, that without those supports, it’s hard to figure out how to move forward.”