Three of the 20 winners in the $150 million third round of the federal Investing in Innovation competition will focus their efforts on improving rural schools.
The U.S. Department of Education mandated applicants choose one of five areas, and rural was added last yearas a new priority. The change came after rural education advocates had criticized the department for failing to award grants to “authentically rural” communities.
One of this year’s rural winners, the National Writing Project College-Ready Writers Program, got a “validation” award of up to $15 million. The other two, the AVID Center and Virginia Advanced Study Strategies, Inc., each received “development” awards of up to $3 million.
The National Writing Project will establish partnerships with rural districts to offer professional development for middle and high school teachers. Forty high-need rural districts in eight states—Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, and South Carolina—will implement writing lessons aligned with the Common Core State Standards.
The goal is to improve teachers’ instruction and students’ writing achievement, and to increase the number of rural teacher-leaders in participating schools. The project will serve about 25,000 students seventh- through 12th-grade students.
The Rural Math Excel Partnership Project is aiming to engage students, parents and community partners to better prepare students for advanced high school study in STEM courses.
More specifically, the grant hopes to:
• Engage parents of at least 90 percent of students in algebra and geometry courses to encourage students to complete Kahn Academy and Internet video homework assignments;
• Prepare math teachers at seven middle and seven high schools to integrate Kahn videos into their lesson plans; and,
• organize community groups in each area served to hold one STEM career event.
The grant applicant was nonprofit Virginia Advanced Study Strategies, Inc. in South Boston, Va., and the goal is to serve about 6,590 students.
Finally, the AVID Central Florida Collaborative plans to serve 800 Florida students.
The AVIC collaborative hopes to prove a collaborative of high schools and colleges in rural areas can integrate college readiness best practices to significantly improve student achievement and success. The project will train teachers in feeder patterns of middle schools, high schools, and colleges to implement AVID instructional methodologies in their classes.
It also hopes to increase the number of students who enroll in a post-secondary institutions by 10 percent as well as see a 5 percent reduction in the number of students who do not advance from 9th to 10th grade.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.