Date of this Version
The purpose of this study was to determine the problems faced by small, rural Nebraska school districts. For this study, 15 possible challenges were identified (a) student enrollment, (b) instructional programs, (c) instructional support services, (d) extra curricular activities, (e) hiring and retaining administrative staff, (f) hiring and retaining teaching staff, (g) hiring and retaining non-certified staff, (h) building and grounds, (i) transportation services, (j) food services, (k) school finances, (l) student assessment, (m) accountability school performance, (n) family support, and (o) community support. There were no data on this topic for the state of Nebraska. The case for this study involved all 28 school districts identified as “very sparse” according to the Nebraska state aid statute as of 2007-08. The participants in this study were the superintendents of these school districts. The survey instrument used to collect data included the 15 challenges facing small, rural Nebraska school districts. A five point Likert-scale was used for each challenge from 1—a minor/no challenge to 5—a major challenge. Participants in the study were asked to respond to each of the challenge items from the perspective of their own school district by circling the number in their view that described their school district challenge. After the return of the survey, the author contacted each superintendent by telephone and conducted interviews using open-ended questions to further perspectives on the survey items.
The results indicated the top challenges for small, rural Nebraska schools were school finance, student enrollment, hiring and retaining teaching staff, student assessment, and accountability school performance. Although each challenge was difficult on its own, the challenges overlapped each other and superintendents were not able to manage one challenge without addressing others. Small rural school districts face many challenges that require careful consideration and cooperation involving every community member and were impacted by some factors that they have no control over. Small, rural, school district superintendents must think ahead with finances, stay in contact with legislative actions, and keep an open mind to changing technology that can impact the education of students.