Posted by: Barry | December 12, 2009

The educational situation our Mingo County kids face

A new report, released two weeks ago, highlights the educational difficulties faced by the children we serve here at ABLE Families. Why Rural Matters 2009 is a report on the conditions of education in rural school districts across the country.  It was published November 30 by The Rural School and Community Trust

One fact comes as no surprise: Here in Mingo County, we are right in the heart of one of thirteen sections of the country identified as “regional clusters of high poverty school districts.”  In other words, the Mingo County School System is among the rural school school districts with the highest student poverty rates.  The press release that accompanies the report points out: “The average poverty rate in these districts is higher than that of districts serving Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Miami, or nearly any other major metropolitan area.”

The RSCT website features state-by-state summaries of important data.  West Virginia’s page is here.  You’ll notice that of the five gauges used to measure each state, the situation of rural school districts in West Virginia is most urgent in gauge 3, Educational and Policy Context, and gauge 4, Educational Outcomes.

What’s this telling us? 

The main issue falling under educational policy is the “ratio of instructional to transportation expenditures.”  This ratio is very low here.  In fact, West Virginia ranks #1 in the United States in this category.  In the other words, a lot of money is being spent on transportation that might otherwise be channeled towards instruction. 

Nationally, rural districts spend $11.30 on instruction for every $1 on transportation.  WV spends $7.15 on instruction for every $1 on transportation.  Some of this is unavoidable; driving buses through the hollows and up and down the mountains of our state cannot be easy or cheap.  But it’s also related to policy matters, like size of schools and districts, permissible length of bus rides, and personnel decisions.

It would be interesting to look into this matter more.  I hope to be able to talk about this soon with some more informed people, to help understand the reasons for the figure. 

Under educational outcomes, West Virginia ranks troublingly low in several categories:

High school graduation rate: 74.2% (14th from the bottom in the U.S.)

4th grade math and reading scores on the NAEP: 223 (5th from the bottom in the U.S.)

8th grade math and reading scores on the NAEP: 261 (5th from the bottom in the U.S.)

Proficiency in reading, per the NCLB: 40.0% (4th from the bottom in the U.S.)

Proficiency in math, per the NCLB: 46.7% (10th from the bottom in the U.S.)

 (NAEP is the National Assessment of Educational Progress.  NCLB indicates the assessment the state uses for reporting purposes under the No Child Left Behind Act.)

There’s a lot more to the report, of course.  The entire report is available online here

Certainly one thing that is clear, though, is that programs like those offered here at ABLE Families – our Afterschool program in particular – is a vitally important resource to the children and families of our region.  Our efforts in literacy development (including some important new ones we’ll be announcing soon), our homework help, and the enthusiasm for education that our staff works to transmit to our kids are important tools to help these kids beat the odds that are not in their favor when it comes to success in education.

To help us maintain and strengthen our afterschool program, as well as GED prep, in-home education on maternal and infant health, summer camps, and more, please consider a donation to ABLE Families today.  Thank you for your time and consideration.


  1. People in richer areas in the community do not understand the difficulties kids have in poorer communities. Things as having a nutritional meal, having access to books or educational tools are taken for granted.

    The problem is sometime enhanced by the educational system which underfunds the rural school.

    Teaching in these schools is not made easy. The children need additional support which the teachers cannot always provide. This sometimes led to difficult conflict situations.

    I take my hat off for the teachers in these schools for the great work they are doing.

  2. What is the HS graduation rate for Mingo Co? What percentage of the students are in special education classes? Can you direct me in the right direction?

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