Rural Tech Project
Prepare your students for the careers of today and tomorrow: Bring distance learning enabled, competency-based technology instruction to your community.
Department of Education
Type of Challenge: Ideas
Submission Start: 06/30/2020 09:00 AM ET
Submission End: 10/08/2020 05:59 PM ET
The U.S. Department of Education (Department) is announcing the Rural Tech Project (Challenge), a new challenge supported with funds reserved under Title IV, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) for purposes of technical assistance and capacity building to support Title IV, Part A. The Challenge invites rural high schools to bring innovative solutions to the implementation of distance learning-enabled, competency-based technology instruction to prepare students for postsecondary education and careers in the technology workforce of today and tomorrow.
The Challenge seeks solutions that use distance learning to provide rural communities access to competency-based education (CBE) programs in technology-related career pathways with a goal of increasing instructional capacity.
Rural communities often lack the instructional capacity to deliver high-quality career and technical education (CTE) in technology education pathways. Distance learning- enabled models can help address capacity constraints by facilitating education delivery with limited staff and minimal or no in-person interaction among instructors or peers, which provides for the potential to increase access to in-demand technology career pathways in rural communities. CBE models allow students to progress at their own pace through a sequence of personalized learning experiences, where students advance their education by demonstrating mastery of a subject or concept. Expanding these models to rural high school students, with a focus on technology pathways, would increase access to qualified educators and expand opportunities for students to earn industry certifications and credentials. The progress of the finalists and the models and practices emerging from the Challenge will be shared on the Challenge website.
The Challenge will be conducted in two phases:
Phase 1: Open Submissions (June 30 - October 8, 2020)
- During Phase 1, high schools and local educational agencies (LEAs) enter the Challenge by completing the submission process outlined on the Challenge webpage. Schools should coordinate their entries with their LEAs to ensure the entries represent an aligned effort, if applicable. At least one online informational session will be held during Phase 1.
- Judging: Entrants who fulfill the criteria described in the Eligibility section of this announcement and complete a submission that meets all entry requirements in the Submission Information section of this announcement will be eligible for judging. Independent judges will review eligible Phase 1 submissions using the Finalist Selection Criteria, which are included in the Award Selection Criteria section of this announcement and will recommend finalists to the Department. Up to five finalists will be selected from the group of eligible entrants and invited to participate in Phase 2.
Phase 2: Community Implementation (January 2021 - August 2023)
- During Phase 2, finalists will have the opportunity to receive curated and customized technical assistance to finalize their proposed program plans in preparation for implementation. With support from a local community engagement manager selected by the entrant, finalists will launch programs for a first cohort of students. Finalists will collect data on the first cohorts’ performance metrics, identifying successes and opportunities for improvement. Finalists will evolve program designs and implement program changes while continuing to receive technical assistance. Finalists will also create sustainability plans. After the completion of Phase 2, finalists will document their outcomes and lessons learned in a formal submission for evaluation by the Phase 2 judging panel. This submission will include a detailed description of how schools implemented distance learning-enabled, competency-based technology education; the results and lessons learned from implementation; and effective practices for rural, competency-based technology education program design. The Phase 2 finalist submission will also require documentation of efforts to align programs to one or more technology career paths.
- Judging: Independent judges will review Phase 2 submissions using the Winner Selection Criteria, which are included in the Award Selection Criteria section of this announcement, and recommend to the Department which finalist should be selected as a grand prize winner based on the submission. Subject to approval by the Department, finalists may all be eligible to receive an award (to be determined at a later date).
The Challenge offers a $600,000 cash prize pool.
The $500,000 Phase 1 cash prize pool will be distributed evenly among up to five finalists. The $100,000 Phase 2 cash prize pool will be awarded to one grand prize winner. Any potential prizes awarded under this Challenge will be paid by electronic funds transfer. Award recipients will be responsible for any applicable local, state, and Federal taxes and reporting that may be required under applicable tax laws.
In addition to the cash prizes, each finalist will receive technical assistance, which may include mentorship, curated resources, introductions to employers, and/or program design support. Finalists will also be supported by a Community Engagement Manager selected by the finalist who will assist with on-the-ground setup, implementation, and evaluation of each program. Entrants have the opportunity to propose their own Community Engagement Manager during the entry submission process.
The Official Rules, Terms, and Conditions for the Rural Tech Project can be found here: https://www.ruraltechproject.com/rules-terms-and-conditions/
Finalist selection criteria
Up to 105 points may be assigned during the judging of Phase 1 submissions based on the criteria in this section.
Judges may assign up to 20 points for each selection criterion during the judging of Phase 1 submissions (for a total of up to 100 points) based on the following five selection criteria:
- Quality of methodology. The extent to which the proposed program design thoughtfully uses high-quality career and technical education, distance learning, and competency-based education concepts or methods that will enable students in rural communities to master skills in demand in technology-related career pathways and result in industry-recognized credentials.
- Quality of planning. The extent to which the plan for program implementation provides a sound and comprehensive approach to considerations such as budget, hardware and software requirements, infrastructure, staffing, training, sources of educational content, delivery methods, potential implementation challenges, and support for hands-on learning.
- Community support. The extent to which the entrant’s proposed approach accounts for unique community needs and demonstrates input and commitment from stakeholders critical to program success, such as educators, parents, school administrators, employers, and local community and/or government leaders.
- Continuous improvement. The extent to which the proposed program design presents a sound plan for evidence-based iteration and accounts for resources required to track outcomes and measure key metrics that support program improvement.
- Career relevance. The potential for the proposed program to impart technology skills to high school students that are highly relevant to identifiable local and/or national employer needs and that are transferable to a range of postsecondary and/or career pathways.
Judges may assign up to 5 bonus points during the judging of Phase 1 submissions (in addition to a total score of up to 100 points in the selection criteria described above, for a total score of up to 105 points) based on the following selection criterion:
- Addressing need. The extent to which the student population served by the eligible entrant is low-income, as defined by the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch subsidies under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. § 1759), as amended.
The Department will review the recommendations of the judges and may consider additional characteristics when selecting finalists from the top scoring submissions to ensure diverse distribution of awards, including:
- School size (number of students);
- Percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch subsidies under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. § 1759), as amended; and
- Geographic location and local population density.
Winner selection criteria
Up to 100 points may be assigned during the judging of Phase 2 submissions based on the criteria described below. Judges may assign up to 20 points for each selection criterion during the judging of finalist submissions (for a total of up to 100 points) based on the following five selection criteria:
- Quality of execution. The extent to which the finalist successfully implemented and documented an effective, distance learning-enabled, sustainable competency-based high-quality career and technical education program that helped students build technology skills relevant to careers and employers.
- Continuous improvement. The extent to which the finalist identified and documented challenges and potential solutions, used metrics and other inputs to flexibly adapt their approach, and continually improved community and academic outcomes.
- Community support. The extent to which the finalist meaningfully engaged all stakeholders critical to program success, accounted for unique community needs, and maximized student learning and access to career opportunities. Key stakeholders may include educators, students, parents, school administrators, employers, community, and government leaders.
- Student outcomes. The extent to which the program demonstrated the potential for strong outcomes, such as completion rates, transferable skill mastery, progress towards earning industry-recognized credentials, and career exposure.
- Career alignment. The extent to which the finalist engaged and aligned with employers to design and execute programs and partnerships that provided contextualized learning opportunities for students.
How to Enter
Visit https://www.RuralTechProject.com to submit prize competition entries.
Point of Contact
Have feedback or questions about this challenge? Send the challenge manager an email