The Ayers Foundation is Funding Unique Partnership to Help Schools and Students Succeed Across Rural Tennessee
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Chester County School leaders and educators have received valuable support and assistance in advancing student learning thanks to the support of multiple partners throughout the state.
Chester County is one of 15 rural school districts participating in the Tennessee Rural Acceleration and Innovation Network (TRAIN), a partnership with The Ayers Foundation, the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), the Ayers Institute for Teacher Learning and Innovation, and the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE).
“Supporting rural Tennessee has always been our passion, and this has been a time when we believed philanthropy had an even bigger role to play in ensuring students and teachers in rural Tennessee had what they needed to be successful,” said Janet Ayers, president of The Ayers Foundation. “Rural Tennesseans have faced many of the same challenges as those in larger and better resourced communities, so we wanted to rally in support of local school districts to help them to be successful during this incredibly challenging school year.”
Local school leaders have been meeting and working with leaders from other rural school districts and TRAIN partners throughout the school year to launch remote learning options, develop continuous learning plans, design and provide professional development to teachers and school leaders, and to problem solve around a variety of challenging issues.
“Ensuring the health, safety, and overall well-being of our students and faculty throughout this C-19 pandemic while prioritizing daily learning opportunities for our students in the physical school settings has been a significant challenge,” says Troy Kilzer, Director of Schools for Chester County. “The TRAIN partnership has provided our leaders and teachers with critical resources and thought partners to tackle these tough challenges and maintain the academic achievement of our students.”
In Chester County, the TRAIN partnership has helped to develop a continuous learning plan to provide instruction to students who were quarantined. Teachers received training in virtual instruction and addressing learning loss from the premature closing of schools in the 2019-2020 school year.
“To help make sure students were successful, we wanted educators to be ready for a variety of scenarios and to help teachers strengthen instruction – regardless of how many times they were shifting between in-person or virtual teaching,” said Dr. Candice McQueen, CEO of NIET. “It has been a pleasure working with so many outstanding districts and leaders. It is gratifying to see district leaders use the network to share information, resources, and strategies to support so many educators and students. ”
“By working together, these districts were better able to address challenges each were struggling with independently,” said Dr. Sharon Roberts, Chief K-12 Impact Officer at SCORE. “While their challenges initially focused on broadband access and teaching and learning virtually, districts quickly saw how they could use new tools, networks and collaborative opportunities throughout the year.”
In addition to Chester County Schools, the TRAIN network includes all five districts supported by The Ayers Foundation Scholars Program in Decatur, Henderson, Lawrence, Perry, and Unicoi County Schools – and nine other districts selected to advance The Ayers Foundation and Governor Bill Lee’s efforts to support more students living in rural Tennessee. Those districts include Benton, Gibson SSD, Hardin, Haywood, Henry, Hickman, Lauderdale, Paris SSD, and Wayne County Schools. Of the 15 TRAIN districts, eight are considered by the Appalachian Regional Commission to be located in economically distressed or at-risk counties.
“Overcoming challenges and finding creative solutions to unique and unprecedented problems over the last year has grown us as educators and highlighted the resilience of our students and teachers,” said Kilzer. “We are thankful for our partnership with The Ayers Foundation and the entire TRAIN network. They have been a godsend this past year, by our side facilitating conversations with teachers and other district leaders, brainstorming the best ways to serve our students, and providing critical resources to which we might not otherwise have access.”
For updates and more information about the many programs of the The Ayers Foundation, please visit TheAyersFoundation.org.