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Technology for Schools, Training for Teachers Expands in Rural Missouri

Sixty rural Missouri school districts are receiving intensive professional development, in-classroom coaching, and access to technology-rich classrooms as part of a $12 million federal Investing in Innovation grant.

The enhancing Missouri's Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies National Center at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo., was among 49 groups to win a piece of the federal money in 2010, and its goal was to look at the effect of its program on the achievement of rural Missouri middle school students.

Roughly 10,500 students and 240 teachers in those districts will be served by the five-year grant, and the project recently received a visit from Jim Shelton, the U.S. Department of Education Assistant Deputy Secretary for Improvement and Innovation.

The eMINTS program leaders posted a summary of Shelton's day-long visit on the program's Web site. During a roundtable discussion, some districts talked about the need for more infrastructure for faster and more reliable Web service.

"One assistant superintendent compared the current lack of high-speed broadband in rural areas to the lack of electricity in rural areas in the 1930s," according to the eMINTS summary. "She noted that a concerted federal effort was required to ensure that all communities were able to access electricity and that there should be a similar effort with broadband."

The Missouri Department of Education is giving eMINTS and its research partner, the American Institutes for Research in Washington, D.C., access to teacher and student data to evaluate its findings and reduce the project evaluation cost on participating districts.

AIR researchers presented preliminary results from the first year of data collection. They found that some increases in technology integration in math and communication as well as the use of inquiry-based teaching methods in math can be attributed to the project. Complete research findings will be reported in coming years.

A story from The Columbia Daily Tribune in Columbia, Mo., said leaders of rural school districts also said they've seen more student engagement and changes in veteran teachers' philosophy.

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