A new short documentary film on rural SC schools is being released on Wednesday, December 13.
“Turning Point” is being released online, here:https://www.turningpointsouthcarolina.com/.
The two S.C. communities featured in the documentary, made by a Columbia University professor, were able to bring the nonprofit New Tech Network into their schools through a federal i3 grant.
The idea was hatched by former South Carolina Governor and U.S. Secretary of Education Dick Riley.
We’re told he visited one of the first New Tech schools years ago in California and thought the model might apply to rural S.C.
New Tech works with about a dozen schools across the state, and about 200 nationwide, to transform classrooms using project-based learning, with coaching and on-site support.
These classrooms work very differently than traditional classes. Students often work in groups, make digital presentations about their work, and learn in classes with nontraditional themes that sometimes combine core subjects into topical seminars.
The results in rural S.C. have been remarkable.
Colleton County High School in Walterboro had really struggled, and now it has New Tech-focused career academies, one is called Cougar New Tech, that have helped to improve the school vastly. Students’ test scores and graduation rates have risen substantially. This is all happening in one of the poorest region’s in the country, the I-95 corridor, which as you know was the subject of the documentary, Corridor of Shame.
The other school in the Turning Point project is Scott’s Branch High/Middle School in Summerton, in Clarendon County.
It has definitely seen a turnaround—escaping state watch lists and now rating average-to-good for test score and graduation rate improvements—but the changes have not been as dramatic. It also had further to go. There’s been turnover this year at all principal positions in the district, a common issue for rural/remote schools. The setting for Scott’s Branch is historic, as you also likely know. This is where Briggs v. Elliott, the first case that was one of four rolled into Brown v. Board, happened.