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Enterprise Learning Launches in SC with $24.9 Million Race to the Top-District Grant

Enterprise Learning fosters engagement, passion, innovation and entrepreneurship, and is appropriate for all grade levels.

Four diverse school districts in South Carolina came together last year to form a consortium recently awarded a $24.9 million grant in the second round of Race to the Top-District competition funding by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Carolina Consortium for Enterprise Learning (CCEL), comprised of Clarendon County School District Two, Richland County School District Two, Orangeburg Consolidated School District Five and Williamsburg County School District, will implement the funding to enable PK-12 students to become "Enterprise Learners" who successfully develop, pursue and attain rigorous learning and living goals that prepare them for college, careers and citizenship.

Through Enterprise Learning, a methodology used by businesses and industries in the US for many years to develop top-level leaders, students learn skills required to analyze and solve problems through collaboration, perseverance, taking calculated risks and learning from mistakes and successes. Enterprise Learning fosters engagement, passion, innovation and entrepreneurship, and is appropriate for all grade levels.

Diane Monrad, Director of the South Carolina Educational Policy Center at the University of South Carolina College of Education and member of the Center for Educational Partnerships, was a member of the proposal writing team that successfully brought the funding to the South Carolina school districts.

"I am very interested in helping districts in the state move forward in getting the resources they need to make improvements to increase student achievement," explains Monrad, whose role on the grant writing team included conceptualizing the program's design, pulling all the data together, and developing performance measures and an evaluation plan. Gail Widner, a grant writer who co-authored the proposal that won Charleston a Race to the Top grant in 2012, asked Monrad to join the proposal writing team for CCEL last year.

CCEL is a unique collaboration and leading-edge approach to education in that it embraces shared approaches and strategies to achieve Enterprise Learning, including "anywhere, anytime" personalized learning, standards-based instruction paired with high-quality resources and technology, school climates that celebrate engagement and participation, and embedded continuous improvement.

Monrad says the Race to the Top-District grants were awarded to districts with prior work demonstrating the ability to personalize and improve student learning, increase student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps, and prepare students for college and careers, which is exactly what the CCEL districts were doing. CCEL developed because of the need to target high-need, high-poverty and low-performing PK-12 feeder systems in each school district. Through CCEL, the districts are committed to collaborating and working together for seven years—four years of grant implementation and three years beyond the grant to ensure long-term sustainability and viability.

CCEL's implementation of Enterprise Learning is critical for students in South Carolina and for the future economic success of the state. The state's unemployment rate has been among the nation's lowest since 2008. Additionally, rural areas including three CCEL counties, Orangeburg, Clarendon and Williamsburg, fare worse. Public education has also suffered. The state holds the tenth lowest rate in the nation for individuals holding a high school diploma, and only 25 percent of the population holds a bachelor's degree. The state's per capita income, at $34,266, is third lowest in the nation. Williamsburg County has the lowest per capita income in the state, at $13,513. Clarendon is ranked eighth lowest at $16,562, and Orangeburg is ranked twelfth, at $17,579.

CCEL will implement the Enterprise Learning project in 19 participating schools with 11,844 students and 950 educators—but the project has great potential to impact 41,183 students, more than 2,000 educators and 65 total schools within the four districts.

Grant funding will provide a digital learning platform for students, educators and parents to assess, plan and guide a child's progress through learning and preparation for college and careers. It will also provide portable technology in the form of a tablet or notebook for each student to ensure equity and access to current technology. Educators will have access to a digital teaching platform for individual and collective use to develop standards-based instruction assessments and capacity building initiatives, ensuring schools and districts support effective teaching and positive school environments.

Even though the grant has been awarded to CCEL, Monrad's work isn't done. She and her team at the South Carolina Educational Policy Center will work on the project for four years. "Our role now is to help the districts and schools implement the project, to develop implementation rubrics and work with them around the issue of school climate," Monrad explains. "We'll be working with them to analyze their current climates and develop strategies to improve as necessary to make the schools places where students want to be and want to work through this project."

Through the work of Monrad and the CCEL, Enterprise Learning will have the opportunity to thrive in an area of great need and enable engagement and achievement—impacting students and communities alike.

Read the US Department of Education press release.

Learn about the South Carolina Educational Policy Center at the College of Education.

Learn about the Center for Educational Partnerships.

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