The United States Department of Education (ED) has announced a challenge to advance high-quality technology instruction in rural communities. The Rural Tech Project, with a total cash prize pool of $600,000, invites rural high schools and local educational agencies (LEAs) to develop competency-based, distance learning programs that enable students to master skills at their own pace with the goal of preparing them for the well-paying, in-demand jobs of today and tomorrow. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, schools across the country have had to grapple with how to successfully continue to educate students who are not physically in a classroom.
Potential entrants can find additional resources online at ruraltechproject.com and can join a virtual information session on July 21. Those interested in entering the challenge should submit a proposal for a competency-based program by 5:59 p.m. ET on October 8, 2020. The online submission form asks for a program overview, including the delivery model, curriculum topics, and intended collaboration with local employers and other partners.
Up to five finalists will each receive an equal share of the initial $500,000 prize pool and progress to Phase 2. From January to June 2021, finalists will develop detailed program plans and build partnerships before programs launch. They will have on-the-ground assistance, expert mentorship, and access to virtual resources as they plan, run, and refine their programs for two academic years. Finalists will also be supported by a Community Engagement Manager, who will assist with on-the-ground setup, implementation, and evaluation of each program. During Summer 2023, finalists will document their outcomes and learnings in a final submission; the judging panel will then recommend one grand-prize winner to receive an additional $100,000. The Rural Tech Project will compile insights from all finalists and share lessons learned as a resource for other communities.