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Rural i3 Winner Shares Ideas

I recently listened in on a webinar hosted by the Rural School and Community Trust, the third in its 2010-11 series. Its goal was to share successful innovations happening in rural places.

The call focused on the New England Network for Personalization and Peformance, a group created by the Plymouth, Mass., School District and the Center for Secondary School Redesign.

The Network is made of 13 high schools in four states (Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont) and includes nearly 11,000 students. It was one of 49 projects nationwide to be granted federal i3 funds. It received $5 million and secured matching support from the Rural School and Community Trust and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.

The Network's rural schools aim to personalize learning for each student, and they're doing that by offering inquiry-based learning experiences tied to performance assessments. In plain speak, that means student learning isn't restricted to a traditional classroom, and it can happen anywhere at any time.

Students still must prove what they've learned through some sort of test, and the hope is they will be more successful in school and better prepared for college and the real world.

The hour-long webinar featured a teacher, principal, and superintendent from three rural school districts in New Hampshire, and each talked about their efforts to allow students to take ownership of their learning. They also allowed time for questions and answers.

There wasn't as much discussion as I thought there would be on the rural aspects of this project, but it still was an interesting conversation about high schools trying to redesign themselves and change the way students learn.

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