Advancing Equity through Deeper Learning in Rural Schools (Study Tour, Charleston, SC)

Advancing Equity through Deeper Learning in Rural Schools (Study Tour, Charleston, SC)
Advancing Equity through Deeper Learning in Rural Schools (Study Tour, Charleston, SC)


This study tour addressed how two high-need rural schools in South Carolina are addressing the challenges of preparing students for college and career success. The i95 “Corridor of Shame” in rural South Carolina is characterized by high illiteracy and high unemployment, yet within this corridor, two districts are working to transform their community into a “Corridor of Innovation.” They are accomplishing this with the New Tech Network, a leading design partner for comprehensive school transformation, as well as the Riley Institute, based at Furman University. These two STEM-focused New Tech high schools—Scott’s Branch High School and Cougar New Tech—will graduate their first classes in 2017. The schools utilize four design pillars: culture that empowers students and teachers, project-based learning, broad use of technology, and school-wide “deeper learning” student outcomes. Additionally, dual enrollment with college courses and engagement with regional employers are helping to advance equity and opportunity for students, families, and the community by promoting student development, growth, and economic self-sufficiency.

Presenter Biographies:

As Senior Director for Partnerships & Communication, Kristin Cullia fosters effective district, government, business and intermediary relationships to support New Tech Network (NTN) implementations nationally.  In that capacity, Kristin designs, builds and implements resources and experiences that define NTN’s impact, model, and platform. Since 2009, when she joined New Tech, Kristin has been instrumental in developing strategic partnerships and in fostering effective district and intermediary relationships, including local, state, education, government and business partners, to support New Tech implementations across the country. Prior to formally joining NTN, Kristin worked for 16 years in high schools as a teacher, principal and district administrator.  During her tenure, Kristin was directly responsible for opening two innovative high schools and supported the opening of four additional high schools in her growing district, the 14th largest school system in the nation.

Dr. Latoya Dixon is a former middle school co-principal and transformational leader. She also served as an elementary school principal in the Rock Hill School District. As a product of Rock Hill School District 3, Latoya began her career as a middle school English Language Arts teacher after graduating from Clemson University in 1999. She received National Board Certification and continued her education receiving a MEd in Educational Leadership in 2007  from the University of South Carolina. For five of the six and a half years Latoya was principal at Mt. Gallant Elementary, the school received several Palmetto Silver and Gold awards. Latoya is known across the Carolinas not only for her expertise as a leader, but also for her inspirational spirit. Dr. Dixon earned her Ed.S. in 2012 and PhD from the University of South Carolina in 2014. Dr. Dixon was named the 2015-2016 Rowan Salisbury Schools Principal of the Year, where she served as co-principal of Knox Middle School and helped remove the school from the state low performing list it had been on since 2008. She currently serves as a state level leader in South Carolina.

Lydia Dobyns has combined careers as a technology entrepreneur and executive, with education policy and non-profit service. She served two terms as an elected school board member, co-founded and led a local education foundation and directed replication strategies in the non-profit education sector. Her vision is a nation where we are proud of our public schools. Among the chief initiatives underway for New Tech Network are expanding and strengthening its network of 200 K-12 schools in 28 states, working with school districts and communities to start and sustain systemic change and further development of the Project-Based platform, NTN Echo. Her entrepreneurial and executive career features work in the high tech, online services, consumer products and health care industries. She graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of California, Berkeley.

Don Gordon – The Riley Institute at Furman University in Greenville, SC. Photo shot January 10, 2008.[/caption]Donald L. Gordon has been the Executive Director of the Riley Institute since its inception in 1999. Dr. Gordon is a Professor of Political Science at Furman where he specializes in African and Middle Eastern Politics. Under his direction the Riley Institute has grown to include the Centers for Education Policy and Leadership, Diversity Strategies, and Crucial Issues all designed to address issues critical to  the future of South Carolina. On leave from Furman, he served as a Chief of Staff and Committee Counsel in the US House of Representatives. Dr. Gordon received his M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Florida.


Lauren McCauley serves as the Personalized Learning Education Associate at the South Carolina Department of Education. In this role, she is responsible for supporting schools and districts in planning and implementing personalized learning for all students. Prior to joining SCDE, Lauren served as the Assistant Director for Personalized Learning at the Charleston County School District. Previously, she worked as an Education Specialist at the United States Department of Education in the Implementation and Support Unit where she supported the implementation of Race to the Top and the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund grants. She joined the federal government in 2009 as a Presidential Management Fellow. Prior to her federal service, Lauren was an Admissions Counselor at the College of Charleston. She has a Master of Arts in Education Policy from The George Washington University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Political Science from the College of Charleston.

Alan Richard is a veteran national education writer and editor. He’s currently a contributor to the Hechinger Report, a national education news site. He formerly covered the South and rural America for Education Week, the leading national publication covering preK-12 education. He also previously was the director of communications for the Southern Regional Education Board, which works with 16 states to improve education. He currently serves as the board chair of the Rural School and Community Trust, a national policy and advocacy organization. A South Carolina native, he lives in the Washington, D.C., area.


Christopher Shearer is a Program Officer in Education at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. He helps manage grants to improve education by advancing deeper learning knowledge, skills, and dispositions for students. Previously, he was associate executive director of the National Geographic Society’s Education Foundation, where for more than a decade he managed grantmaking, policy advocacy and public engagement. From 1993 to 1997, he was a senior staffer at the Institute for Educational Leadership’s interdisciplinary National Health & Education Consortium. Before that, he served as the executive assistant to the president of the Pew Charitable Trusts. He began his career as a communications associate for the Duke University-based Pew Health Professions Commission, established to help the U.S. workforce, policy, and educational institutions respond to the nation’s changing health care system. He has a bachelor’s degree in English literature and biology, and a master’s degree in English literature, both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, his hometown.

Additional Resources:

The Heat of Summerton

Rural Americans helped elect Donald Trump, but his ideas won’t help their schools. What will?

South Carolina Framework for Personalized Learning

Virtual Shadowing 1

Virtual Shadowing 2

TRSC Media Kit

New Tech Network Innovating Public Schools Video

New Tech Network Innovating Within the Education System Video

New Tech Network School Success Rubric

New Tech Network 2017 Planning Timeline

CCSSO Innovation Lab Network Resource Page

CCSSO Every Student Succeeds Act Resources 

Next State of Learning Videos (4)

Education Week Learning Deeply Blog Post 

Hewlett Foundation Deeper Learning Initiative

Hewlett Foundation Deeper Learning Infographic – School and Construction 

Hewlett Foundation Deeper Learning Infographic – School and Office

Hewlett Foundation Deeper Learning Infographic – School and Lab

Jobs For the Future Deeper Learning Research Series

Alliance for Excellent Education Deeper Learning Resources

American Institutes for Research Deeper Learning Study

Education for Life and Work Report

Why Rural Matters 2013 – 2014 Report

Why Rural Matters 2015 – 2016 Report








Event Agenda

What is Deeper Learning?

Prompts for Student Conversations

Chris Shearer’s Presentation on Deeper Learning

Lydia Dobyns’ Presentation on New Tech Network


The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan professional development organization based in Washington, DC, provides learning opportunities for policy leaders, practitioners, and researchers working on youth and education issues at the national, state, and local levels. AYPF events and publications are made possible by contributions from philanthropic foundations. For a complete list, click here.