The Southeast Comprehensive Center (SECC) and the Texas Comprehensive Center (TXCC) at SEDL are hosting the Regional Institute, Supporting High-Quality Rural Education, at the Embassy Suites Austin - Central Hotel in Austin, Texas, on November 5–7, 2014. This Institute is by invitation only for educators at state-level agencies and organizations who are engaged in efforts to support rural education.

The purpose of this Institute is to provide the opportunity for state educators working in rural education to network with their counterparts from other states, engage in conversations with experts in the field, and meet with nationally recognized educators and researchers on critical topics related to this work that were identified by participating states.

Institute Outcomes

The outcomes planned for the Institute are to:

  1. Increase clarity regarding the challenges and opportunities for enhancing student learning that are unique to rural education,
  2. Generate ideas and identify strategies for supporting rural administrators, teachers, and staff with their efforts to reduce the academic performance gap among students, and
  3. Engage with national experts around state-specific rural education issues and network with other professionals whose work involves supporting rural education.


Chuck Benigno

Superintendent, Laurel School District, Mississippi

Title: Rural Education...A Game of Inches
Description: Dr. Chuck Benigno, motivational speaker and author of Teaching: Excellence or Survival?, will conduct this high-energy presentation using educational research, real-world examples, and video clips to focus on the keys to creating dynamic rural learning environments.
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Shelley Billig

Vice President, RMC Research Corporation

Title: Mind the Gap: Closing the Achievement Gap in Rural Districts
Description: Much has been written about this challenge of closing the achievement gap between students of poverty and their more affluent peers for urban sites, but too little research has been conducted to understand what works in rural districts. This presentation will provide information on promising practices for rural districts based on an extensive review of the research and the practical wisdom of those superintendents who have been successful in narrowing or closing the gap.
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Lucy Johnson

ED Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach

Title: Federal Priorities for Rural Education
Description: The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has long recognized the particular challenges facing rural schools, which it currently seeks to address through the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) initiatives of Title VI, Part B, of the reauthorized ESEA. This session will focus on the vision for these and other initiatives of ED that are specifically designed to support high-quality rural education.
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View all presenters

  • Dr. Chuck Benigno, Superintendent, Laurel School District, Mississippi

    Chuck Benigno, Superintendent, Laurel School District, Mississippi

  • Shelley Billig
Vice President, RMC Research Corporation

    Shelley Billig, Vice President, RMC Research Corporation

  • Lucy Johnson
ED Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach

    Lucy Johnson, ED Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach

Session Descriptions

Discussion Circle #1:
Networking with our Neighbors

Institute participants will meet in small groups of peers with similar roles and responsibilities for supporting and sustaining rural education in schools and school districts. This session will allow members to get to know colleagues and develop contacts from other states who can be a resource and sounding board regarding the challenges of meeting the demands of education in rural settings. Come prepared to share!

Discussion Circle #2:
Targeted Conversations

Get in on the conversation! Institute participants will gather in one of four groups to explore a question of interest about rural education in a free-flowing format that will allow them to identify frustrations and challenges as well as brainstorm strategies and solutions about the featured topic. This interactive session will allow a variety of perspectives and encourage the exchange of ideas. A facilitator will help guide the discussion and summarize key points and applications of the understandings the discussion generated from the participants.

Deep Dive Conversation with Experts
State teams will gather together for three pre-selected sessions focused on important areas of leadership and support for rural education in their state. An expert will begin the session with a brief introduction on the topic, followed by an opportunity for dialogue between state leaders and the expert. During each session, the expert and session facilitator will help state team members think deeply about how their state could address areas of need and help them develop the vision, strategies, and practical steps they can employ to improve the effectiveness of state leadership in rural education.