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ACEF Journal Vol 3 Issue 1 December 2012

Yan Data Collection Procedures and Strategies The following strategies were used in the data collection procedure to increase the return rate: (a) both online survey and mailing survey, and (b) various follow up strategies. According to the definition of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania (2012), a school district is rural when the number of persons per square mile within the school district is less than 274; approximately 235 school districts in Pennsylvania are categorized as rural school districts. For these rural school districts, a master contact list including district superintendent names, building addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses and/or websites was developed. Based on the master list, all districts were contacted via telephone to confirm their email address. This list was then updated and cross-checked on a regular basis. Various follow up strategies were used to ensure that the survey was directed to the superintendents. Those who received the survey were reminded to return their survey, and those who did not respond were requested to provide their preferred method of survey completion. These contacts were noted in the contact log, as well as their preferred method of transmission of the survey. A total of 141 (58%) of the districts on the contact list were sent surveys using both the online and hard copy. Superintendents or other district-level personnel, such as Business Managers or Supervisor of Special Projects completed the surveys. A total of 65 school districts returned the surveys either via email, fax, or regular mail. The response rate for the survey was 27% (65/243). In addition to the survey constructed for this project, the existing PlanCon data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (2005) were utilized. PlanCon data requires school districts to provide information for their school conditions, it provided information for validating the data that were collected from the survey and also provided school condition information for those school districts that were not included in the survey. Combined, the PDE PlanCon data and the survey data, a total of 126 school districts were included in the analyses of school building conditions. These school districts represented 52% of the rural school districts in Pennsylvania. Representative of the Data Source Two important indicators of school characteristics were used throughout the comparisons of this study: Region and percentage of low-income students. Prior literature indicated that school enrollment projections and school building conditions were significantly related to these two factors (NCES, 2000, 2002, 2005; The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, 2012). The PDE website provides percentage of low-income students on their website for each school district: http://www.pde.state.pa.us/k12statistics/cwp/view.asp?A=3&Q=139940. Data from the Center of Rural Pennsylvania (2005a) were utilized to group rural Pennsylvania school districts into Eastern, Central, and Western region. Combining the percentage of low-income student data with the region data, the school characteristic data for rural school districts was created. To assess the representative of our sample to the target sample, the school district characteristics were compared between the school districts that were included in the analysis and those school districts that were not included in terms of their regional distribution and concentration of low-income students. As indicated in Table 1, a Chi-square test result revealed that there were no significant differences between the school districts that were included in the 23 Vol. 3, No. 1, 2012


ACEF Journal Vol 3 Issue 1 December 2012
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