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Rural Schools Use 'i3' Aid To Reform High Schools

In case you missed it, I wanted to point out a rural education story I wrote that's in the current issue of EdWeek. The article is about 13 mostly rural, secondary schools in four New England states that are using federal Investing in Innovation (i3) grant money to change the way they teach and assess students.

I heard about the New England Network for Personalization and Performance during a webinar hosted by the Rural School and Community Trust and subsequently wrote a blog post about it.

My EdWeek editors were interested in learning more about this project for a few reasons:

• Rural school advocates have criticized the U.S. Department of Education for failing to award i3 grants to "authentically rural" communities, and this was one of a handful of projects that had a rural focus.
• The second round of i3 competition made rural achievement one of five top priorities, and this project could be a model for other districts.
• It was an unusual arrangement because the project spanned multiple states and had a rural focus.

The New England network received nearly $5 million in i3 funds, and the Rural School and Community Trust and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation each contributed an additional $500,000. They say that in five years, every student in a New England network school will have participated in at least two personalized, inquiry-based learning experiences and demonstrated mastery of knowledge and skills through performance assessments.

It was an interesting but challenging story to report and write, primarily because the reforms planned for these schools are vastly different than those I've seen elsewhere. But the logic behind their proposal makes sense—students who are more invested in their learning and see its application in the real-world are more likely to succeed during and after high school.

The planned reforms will require students to take more ownership of their education, and they will force teachers to lead and test students in different ways. It's a significant departure from the traditional high school model, and the folks I interviewed expect to be challenged with some resistance to change.

In the future, I'd like to take a closer look at the three "authentically rural" i3 grant recipients as described by the Rural School and Community Trust, so be on the lookout for blog posts on those.

Finally, if you're interested in applying for the second round of the i3 competition, applications are due Aug. 2.

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