Innovative Arizona Collaboration Strengthens Rural Education

March 7, 2022 |
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The ongoing rural teacher shortage remains a challenge for many communities. RSC is committed to addressing the shortage on a national scale through rural teacher preparation programs in our growing Rural Teacher Corps network, as well as digital marketing support and outreach via the newly-launched Teach Rural Job Board.

But we are also firm believers in place-based, collaborative, tailored solutions for a given region. More and more, our partners are launching local initiatives (like the new Teach in the Ozarks website) that get creative and collaborative to support their rural students. RSC had the chance to visit with Glen Lineberry on one such innovation - the new Arizona Student Opportunity Collaborative (AzSOC).

Glen Lineberry, Director of Arizona Student Opportunity Collaborative
Glen Lineberry, Director of Arizona Student Opportunity Collaborative

This initiative leverages highly qualified teachers already serving in rural schools by paying them to teach students who need their courses, all at no cost to the students, their families, or their schools. Students are able to take courses via a network of hybrid classrooms with highly qualified teachers instructing students both online and physically present in their rooms. Courses are being developed on a Canvas platform so that students can access the materials at any time, regardless of different school schedules.

The AzSOC is firmly rooted in partnerships - school districts, higher ed partners, and philanthropy groups are coming together to support this grassroots network. Helios Education Foundation – in partnership with the Arizona Department of Education, Arizona State University and seven rural school districts – helped launch the Arizona Student Opportunity Collaborative in 2019, and detailed the partnership in a news piece on their website.

“We are grateful for the partnership and support of Helios Education Foundation, the Arizona Department of Education, and Arizona State University in supporting this collaborative,” said Glen Lineberry, AzSOC Director. “We are focused on ensuring our students are college and career ready and that includes providing them with the academic rigor that they will need for future success.”

And, the collaboration doesn’t stop there. NREA State Affiliates, Arizona Rural Schools Association (ARSA) (one of RSC’s Policy Playbook Partners) has supported AzSOC's work from the inception, including a 2019 “The Rural Scoop” podcast interview with Glen on the genesis of the work, hosted by Dr. Melissa Sadorf. ARSA is dedicated to promoting quality education for all students in rural Arizona schools, and is yet another exemplar of a collaborative organization advocating for rural education.

The AzSOC also ensures students are ready for graduation and matriculation by providing dual enrollment courses, offered in partnership with Prescott College. Prescott College is a private Arizona university with a longstanding commitment to rural equity, and yet another partner supporting and preparing Arizona’s rural students.

The collaborative is now in its 4th semester of full operations with more than 1000 students enrolled in 29 courses serving 32 schools. For areas of future work, AzSOC is focused on building out more academic courses in Canvas, expanding dual enrollment opportunities, and furthering their CTE and Elective offerings.

We are thankful to all the partners in Arizona that continue to support each other and thereby support their rural students. We hope more regions will take a page out of Arizona’s book and think outside the box on how working together can strengthen rural education.

For more information on AzSOC, please reach out to Director Glen Lineberry at glen.lineberry@azsoc.org. For more information on how you can support rural schools in Arizona, check out the Arizona Rural Schools Association website.

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