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An Ohio collaborative of rural school districts has won $15 million in a statewide innovation-grant competition to develop a personalized learning network.
Ohio recently awarded $88.7 million in Straight A Funds to 24 schools and consortia, and the largest went to the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative Personalized Learning Network. The 27-school network will benefit more than 48,000 students in grades 6-12.
"This Straight A investment offers a real chance to level the playing field for rural students, schools and communities," said Northern Local School District Superintendent Tom Perkins in a statement.
This newest collaborative leverages the work of the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative, a 4-year-old effort of 21 Appalachian Ohio school districts that received funding from the state's Race to the Top grant. That effort was focused on improving teachers' effectiveness to boost college- and career-readiness in rural Ohio. The new network includes 20 of the 22 original districts involved in the collaborative, as well as adds about 7 others and universities.
The funding will go toward giving 110 existing teachers in the region the credentials to be able to provide college-credit courses in their home high schools, developing a personalized learning platform and a dual-enrollment system, improving the Internet connectivity in 12 districts, and upgrading technology and equipment in all of the districts.
Tracy Nájera is senior director of Battelle for Kids, which has been a partner in the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative. She said the latest state grant is unique in that the project will receive the one-time infusion of grant funds during the next few months, and the majority of the project funds will be spent by June 30. That will ensure all participating districts have the infrastructure and equipment necessary to support blended learning environments and personalized learning networks, she said. Growing the teacher talent for dual-enrollment courses will take at least three years, and the project should reach its full performance by the end of 2018.
The main goals of the grant are to:
- Overcome the rural opportunity gap by increasing students' postsecondary aspirations and preparedness. More students should earn college credit in high schools, amounting to an estimated 3.6 million in college savings for students and their families.
- Boost rural economic development by providing more qualified workers to the region.
- Establish a sustainable rural education collaborative that can include more districts.
Perkins was quoted in a story on WHIZNEWS.com as saying his district would receive nearly $500,000, and that money will be used for technology needed to provide disttance learning. The college classes that will be offered at high schools will cost about $200 per student, but the grant will cover those costs. Perkins said in the story that he hopes to one day have a fully functioning university on the school's campus.