Rural districts are quicker to return to in-person learning

About 42 percent of rural school districts in the U.S. offered fully in-person instruction as of February, compared with only 17 percent for urban districts, according to a new RAND Corporation survey of school district leaders. The opposite pattern held for fully remote learning: 29 percent of urban districts offered fully remote instruction compared with 10 percent of rural districts and 18 percent of suburban districts.

The choice of in-person versus remote learning has important implications. More than one-third of all U.S. school districts offering some form of remote instruction in early 2021 had shortened the school day, and a quarter had reduced instructional minutes.


“This survey shows how the choice of remote instruction has ramifications that extend beyond longstanding concerns about the lower quality of remote instruction,” said Heather Schwartz, lead author of the report and director of the Pre-K to 12 educational systems program at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “Rural districts–which were primarily fully in-person or hybrid–did not decrease instructional minutes as often as urban districts, which means that urban students of color have likely lost more instructional time this school year than their white counterparts in rural districts.”

Laura Ascione is the Editorial Director, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland’s prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

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