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DeKalb Independent School District will receive up to $300,000 in grant funding and in-kind technical assistance over the next three years to implement a Raising Blended Learners program.

The district is one of 20 in the state selected for the program.

Blended learning refers to the blend of online learning and brick-and-mortar schooling. Blended learning takes place when students learn at least in part online, with some element of student control over the time, place, path, and/or pace of their learning, while also enjoying the benefits that come with education at a physical school, according to the Raise Your Hand Texas website.

"Raise Your Hand Texas is an organization that is very well respected in Texas education and we look forward to working closely with them. This is such an exciting opportunity for our students, teachers, school district and community", said Melissa Motes, Director of Instructional Technology for DeKalb ISD. "We are so excited to be selected to receive the RYHT Blended Learning grant."

The blended learning concept is personalized, data driven and encourages student ownership, according to the website.

The 2020 cohort of blended learning demonstration sites reflect the vast diversity within Texas' public schools including suburban, rural, and urban districts with student populations ranging from 550 to more than 150,000 students.

Blended learning combines the best of in-person classroom teaching with online technology so educators are able to utilize data to personalize instruction while students are able to gain more ownership over their learning. One testament to the promise of blended learning was the 2019 passage by the Texas Legislature to fund a $12 million blended learning grant over the biennium.

Raising Blended Learners was originally scheduled to launch work during the 2020-21 school year. However, due to the school closures caused by COVID-19, the program will begin implementation during the 2021-22 school year.

"The Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation recognizes this announcement comes at a challenging time for education across the state," said Jennifer Jendrzey, vice president of strategy and evaluation for the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation. "In light of the trauma and chaos surrounding COVID-19, we know that 'business as usual' will not be possible for many districts as they head into the 2020-21 school year and, therefore, made the difficult decision to delay the launch of Raising Blended Learners by one full calendar year."

During the interim, the Foundation will support the second cohort of Raising Blended Learning demonstration sites with readiness support to help the districts revisit and revise, if necessary, their blended learning plans.

"Even with a delay, Raise Your Hand is committed to helping districts maintain the momentum generated through the past year of the application and planning process, and supporting them in addressing the new teaching and learning reality of COVID-19," Jendrzey said.

The first cohort of Raising Blended Learners selected in 2015, included five demonstration districts that received grant funding and implementation support. Another 15 districts received implementation support without grant funding. To date, Raising Blended Learners has impacted more than 50 schools, 600 teachers, and 35,000 students.

"The first cohort of Raising Blended Learners has taught not only Raise Your Hand so much about blended learning but also the entire state of Texas. This second cohort will continue to build on that momentum," said Jendrzey. "We are excited to continue scaling the impact of blended learning across the state of Texas with the 20 districts in our second cohort."

All Raising Blended Learners materials are free and available to any district interested in piloting blended learning approaches in their schools. Those resources and more information about the initiative are available at RaisingBlendedLearners.org.

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