Premont ISD named finalist in U.S. Department of Education’s nationwide challenge to advance Rural Technology Education

Alice Echo News Journal

Premont Independent School District, was named a finalist team in the U.S. Department of Education’s Rural Tech Project, winning $100,000 as they advance to the next phase of the competition. The challenge aims to advance technology education, support rural educators, and prepare students for the in-demand careers of today and tomorrow.

Employment growth in technology careers is outpacing other occupations, and across industries, many of the fastest-growing career opportunities will require advanced technology skills. The Rural Tech Project is designed to empower educators with resources for creating technology education programs customized for their students and local needs. 

From June to October, the Department invited rural high schools and local educational agencies to propose technology education programs that use competency-based distance learning. The Rural Tech Project received 63 proposals from teams across 34 states. Entrants proposed programs focusing on a range of technology skills — from computer science and cybersecurity to robotics and aviation.

Premont Independent School District is collaborating with Brooks County and Freer Independent School Districts as part of the Rural Schools Innovation Zone. The districts are offering high school students the option to join one of five academies leading to dual credits, associate degrees, and industry-based certifications. The academies will focus on preparing students for technology-skilled occupations in healthcare, education, engineering, construction, or the military.

“Rural communities have envisioned a breadth of technology education programs. The finalist teams are setting out to equip their students with in-demand skills for rewarding careers across industries,” said Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education Scott Stump. “We look forward to supporting the teams as they use flexible learning models to create programs that increase instructional capacity and truly work for their students.”

The finalist teams were recommended by a judging panel, including experts from Austin Peay State University, the Center for Rural Strategies, Ford Next Generation Learning, The Franklin Institute, IBM, Pine Springs Preparatory Academy, and the University of Arkansas.

Each team will receive a $100,000 cash prize and progress to Phase 2 of the challenge. From January to July 2021, finalist teams 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. Each finalist team will be supported by a Community Engagement Manager, who will assist with on-the-ground setup, implementation, and evaluation of the program. 

During summer 2023, teams will document their outcomes and learnings in a final submission; a judging panel will then recommend one grand-prize winner to receive an additional $100,000. The Rural Tech Project will compile insights from all finalist teams and share lessons learned as a resource for other communities.

Additional finalist teams announced today include the following:

  • iLead Academy (Carrollton, Kentucky) is offering students across five high schools the opportunity to take virtual, dual-credit courses leading to the completion of computer science degrees. Students can earn multiple work certifications to demonstrate mastery in digital literacy, computational thinking, programming languages, networking, and cybersecurity.
  • Louisa County Public Schools (Mineral, Virginia) is providing a cybersecurity program that will prepare students to enter the workforce with industry credentials or attend a postsecondary program. Students can choose a two-year or four-year pace for the program and will select final-semester coursework that targets specific industry pathways.
  • Ravenna High School (Ravenna, Michigan) is creating an agricultural technology program that will teach students transferable skills for robotics, healthcare, and computer informatics. The program will focus on automated beekeeping, and students will work with robots and active beehives to remotely access data and manage hive health. 
  • Woodlake High School (Woodlake, California) is introducing an online aviation program that will prepare students for regional careers or post-secondary degrees. Students will learn drone operations, geometry, and aerodynamic principles, and apply that knowledge through in-person drone flights and simulator work.

To learn more about the Rural Tech Project and meet the finalist teams, visit ruraltechproject.com.

Premont Independent School District, was named a finalist team in the U.S. Department of Education’s Rural Tech Project, winning $100,000 as they advance to the next phase of the competition