Academic journal article Rural Educator

Parents' Perceptions of the Rural School Bus Ride

Academic journal article Rural Educator

Parents' Perceptions of the Rural School Bus Ride

Article excerpt

This article reports findings from a study of the perceptions of parents about the experience of long bus rides on their children. Twenty-six parents, whose homes were located on the longest bus route in a rural Midwestern school district, provided interviews regarding the experiences of a total of 37 students. In the analysis of the interview data, three themes emerged: (1) atmosphere on the bus, (2) length of the bus ride, and (3) safety. Notably parents expressed concerns about the fact that long bus rides exposed their young children to the unsuitable language and behavior of older students

Background

The busing of children to public schools is something we now take for granted, but not too long ago it was introduced as one of several reforms positioned to modernize the schooling that children received. Along with school consolidation, standardization of requirements for teacher credentialing, and various other efficiency measures, school busing enabled schools to become larger, more uniform, and more easily monitored by state regulatory agencies (Haas & Nachtigal, 1998). From the time of its introduction into the daily experiences of children, school busing as a technique for consolidating and modernizing schools has hardly been studied. Nor have its effects on children been systematically examined.

When busing of students has been at issue in school districts, administrators and policy makers have been obligated to reach decisions without being able to draw on a body of empirical research to help them determine the likely impact of busing policies on children. Too often, in the absence of systematic research, school leaders consider only the practicalities of bus rides rather than considering the effects of bus rides on students' school performance and home lives.

In 1869, the State of Massachusetts initiated the first program to provide public funding for school transportation. This program was limited in that it did not supply adequate funding to all public schools in the state (Hennessey, 1978). At that time, of course, transportation technology was limited to horse drawn wagons. The Massachusetts' initiative was a starting point, however, and several states followed Massachusetts' lead, using public funds in a similar manner. Nevertheless, it was not until 1919 that all of die United States were offering some form of funding for school transportation (Hennessey, 1978).

Whereas the provision of transportation to schools certainly gave greater numbers of children access to educational opportunities, at the same time, it enabled policy makers to gain greater control over schools that had originally been organized and supported by local families (Henderson & Gomez, 1975). Without the introduction of busing to move students greater distances than could be traversed on foot, centralized "district" schools may not have come into existence. Former president of the National Education Association, Donald Morrison, stated "busing was perhaps the most significant factor in the transition from the one-room schoolhouse to the consolidated school"(Morrison cited in Hennessey, 1978, p.39).

According to Henderson and Gomez (1975), consolidated schools were attractive to many local rural leaders and residents. Some rural leaders believed that centralized schools would provide opportunities for rural residents to improve their standard of living by broadening educational opportunities. They perceived one room schools to be inadequate in comparison to centralized schools: "A one room school was considered a reproach to the community that tolerated it" (Henderson & Gomez, p. 17). Relinquishing local control of schools appeared to some policy makers to represent a fair trade. The benefits of consolidated schools were seen to outweigh the costs associated with the loss of local control.

Nevertheless, as consolidation efforts continued, larger and larger "districts" were created. …

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