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ODU Center for Educational Partnerships Rethinks Education with Early Phase Education Grant

By Sarah Huddle

The Center for Educational Partnerships at Old Dominion University recently received a $2 million Early Phase Grant from the Education Innovation and Research Program. Funding is expected to be $4.5 million during the five-year performance period.

The project, Advancing Rural Computer Science (ARCS), will work with 18,000 K-5 students and 440 K-5 teachers over the next five years. A majority of the students are considered high-need students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM and computer science education. These include non-white minorities and students from economically disadvantaged families and/or rural communities.

"The ARCS project addresses a critical need to help students in Virginia's rural communities be prepared for STEM and computer science courses and, eventually, for the workforce," said Joanna Garner, executive director for The Center for Educational Partnerships.

The ARCS project addresses four goals: (1) producing teachers with computer science microcredentials who will build school-level capacity in computer science instruction; (2) developing field-tested instructional materials that integrate computer science curriculum standards into core elementary subject areas; (3) increasing student readiness for pursuing STEM and computer science coursework among high-need students; and (4) establishing evidence that will support ARCS program sustainability and expansion.

The project utilizes a Networked Improvement Community (NIC) model for teachers. This model incorporates face-to-face summer professional development sessions and web-assisted, school-year professional development to help teachers develop integrative computer science lessons and resources. Teachers who demonstrate mastery of this integrative approach earn microcredentials through ODU's School of Continuing Education and Professional Development.

"Within the state's STEM ecosystem, well-prepared teachers are key," Garner said. "By experiencing high-quality professional development and earning computer science microcredentials, elementary school teachers will be in a strong position to integrate the new computer science curriculum standards into their lessons."

The Center for Educational Partnerships will serve as the lead agency for the project with collaborators from the Virginia Department of Education and CodeVA. The University of Virginia will conduct the external evaluation.

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