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Ohio Partners With Harvard On Rural Schools Initiative

A Hilliard schools student completes classroom work with an iPad.
Columbus Neighborhoods

Thirty rural Ohio school districts will partner with a Harvard research center to improve student outcomes. The districts will work with Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research, or CEPR, to reduce chronic absenteeism and promote college readiness and enrollment. 

Heather Boughton, a policy researcher with the Ohio Department of Education, says CEPR’s role isn’t to dictate solutions. Instead, they’ll help district officials try out different approaches and analyze data to determine how well they’re working.

"So while the focus right now is on absenteeism, and eventually it will expand to also look at college and career readiness, a district will really learn through this a process that they could apply to anything else,” Boughton explains.

The initiative expands on Proving Ground, a similar program that school officials in Canton and Maple Heights rolled out last year. Boughton says one of its benefits is how quickly researchers and school leaders can see if their plans are working.

“These aren’t long cycle evaluations,” Boughton says. “So you don’t have to wait two or three years to find out if something worked or not. Rather, Proving Ground uses what’s known as a rapid cycle evaluation process, so they’re looking at the district’s data every couple of weeks.”

The $10 million federal grant will support 30 rural districts in Ohio and 30 more in New York. State education officials will open applications for the program in March.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.