New REL Central report outlines considerations for identifying rural districts with narrowing achievement gaps

The small size of most rural school districts makes identifying trends in student achievement a challenge: Scores that seem to go up this year are just about as likely to appear to go down next year—how frustrating! One approach to reducing the “small N” challenge is to average data from multiple years using best-fitting trend lines. We used this approach in our project with the Regional Educational Laboratory Central’s Rural Education Research Alliance to identify rural districts in Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, and South Dakota that were making substantial progress toward closing achievement gaps. The approach is featured in a new report from REL Central that discusses considerations for six key decision points in developing a process for identifying rural achievement gap closure, including:

  • Which subgroup gaps should be examined?
  • What counts as rural?
  • Which measures should be used?
  • What additional criteria should be considered?
  • How should reductions in achievement gaps be measured?
  • How should measures be aggregated to create a single ranking of districts?