EdTech Hero: Sarah Young connects Utah districts with digital learning funds


Sarah Young coordinates with local school districts, the state legislature and her team at the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) to maximize the power of technology in education and create greater opportunities for students in the state.

Young, the coordinator for digital teaching and learning at the USBE, has played a pivotal role in the Utah’s qualifying grant program, which requires local education agencies (LEAs) to go through a rigorous application process in order to qualify for funds.

The Digital Teaching and Learning Qualifying Grant Program, which launched in summer 2016, asks LEAs to create a three-year plan that must be approved by the USBE. It also includes a rubric, a bootcamp for district leadership and a two-tiered review process, among other benchmarks. In time for the 2017 fiscal year, 39 of Utah’s 41 school districts had earned grant approval.

Young, who has been working in education for 13 years, also led a recent initiative at USBE to continue the innovation of competency-based learning by establishing a Competency-Based Learning Exploratory Team. This program has launched a two-phase pilot, which invites LEA leaders to visit other districts with successful competency-based learning programs. The goal is to inform the development of a Utah Framework for Competency-Based Learning.

“This document will set the stage for moving K-12 education systems away from current constraints of time, space and place to allow for more innovative and accessible education pathways for students,” Young told EdScoop.

She also led a partnership between USBE and Code.org to expand computer science to all K-12 students in the state of Utah — the first state to do so. The partnership — still in its first year — now includes STEM Action Center as a partner and is leading over 100 teachers across Utah in computer science training.

Read more from EdScoop’s series “EdTech Heroes: 25 State Leaders Making a Difference.”