Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, was at UNCG last Thursday to take part in a forum about the federally-funded N.C. Investing in Rural Innovative Schools initiative, which partners with UNCG’s iSchool for online courses. That’s when Duncan announced the Department of Education will add $20 million to its earlier $15 million investment in N.C. Rural Schools, which offers students in remote areas of the state early college credit and prepares them for college and the workforce.
N.C. New Schools, the public-private partnership that administers the funds, launched the program with a pilot group of five rural high schools in 2012-13 school year. During that first year, the schools’ combined drop-out rate fell by nearly a third. The pilot schools counted 38 fewer drop-outs than in the previous school year.
Eric Trejo, an East Surry High School student and aspiring civil engineer, introduced Duncan to the crowd of about 200 people gathered in UNCG’s Elliott University Center — a crowd that included former N.C. Governors Beverly Perdue and Jim Hunt and Maurice “Mo” Green, Guilford County Schools superintendent.
N.C. Rural Schools — funded by the federal grants, private donations, and state support — currently works with 18 rural North Carolina High Schools.
Jim Eddy, interim dean of UNCG’s Division of Continual Learning, said iSchool students appreciate the flexibility of online classes that allow them to complete assignments or view materials at any hour. Eddy said studies suggest iSchool students learn about 25 percent more content that other learners. About 70 percent of them earn A’s or B’s in their classes, he said.
Students in those school can earn as many as 21 college credit hours, tuition free, by the time they graduate high school. UNCG’s iSchool and East Carolina University’s Second Life Virtual Education provide online classes while local community colleges provide in-person classes.
Chancellor Linda P. Brady said iSchool generated more than 15,000 registrations and more than 41,000 transferable college credit hours between 2007 and 2011. Brady added that North Carolina remains “an education state.”
Tony Habit, president of N.C. New Schools, agreed with Brady that North Carolina is at the forefront of new movements like online learning. “We, as North Carolinians, are quickly becoming the Innovative State.”
Story by Michelle Hines, University Relations
Photograph by Daniel Smith, Division of Continual Learning