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A $3 million investment in educators and rural North Carolina schools, students

The Fellows for Inclusive Excellence program will remove barriers for students and UNC-prepared teachers and counselors to serve rural communities.

A transformational gift to the UNC School of Education will create a unique fellowship program that will enable a multi-faceted approach to ensure highly effective educators serve students in rural, high-needs North Carolina communities.

With a $3 million commitment over the next four years, the Fellows for Inclusive Excellence program will remove barriers and support current UNC School of Education students and recent graduates to serve as teachers and school counselors in Title 1 schools, starting in Chatham County Schools and Person County Schools. The program will also provide engaging, sustained professional development for assistant principals in those schools who will help build a robust, integrated experience for participating students, interns, and beginning educators. Ultimately, the Fellows program aims to create high-quality professional learning communities that provide school students with enhanced opportunities to succeed and thrive.

“The evidence clearly shows that one of the UNC School of Education’s greatest strengths is the preparation of North Carolina’s most effective educators. This generous investment enables us to build on this strength and extend our reach and impact to serve underprivileged students in rural North Carolina communities,” said Fouad Abd-El-Khalick, dean of the UNC School of Education and Alumni Distinguished Professor. “We believe this partnership between higher education, schools, and philanthropy will serve as a model for elevating high-needs schools and providing students with the opportunity to realize their full potential.”

The Fellows for Inclusive Excellence program was made possible by donors who wish to remain anonymous.

“When we were in initial discussions to launch this program, they instantly understood the need and saw the opportunity to create immediate impact through a program like this one,” Abd-El-Khalick said. “They are familiar with the education landscape and its challenges, and deeply committed to solving those challenges.”

“The best education begins with investment in educators. The Fellows for Inclusive Excellence program exemplifies that.”
Fouad Abd-El-Khalick, dean

The School of Education graduates many of North Carolina’s highly effective educators. State-wide data had shown that having a Carolina-trained teacher resulted in additional months of student learning achieved beyond what is expected on average for learning in a given school year. In some subjects, students gained more than two months’ worth of additional learning. These data also showed the largest gains were among students from underrepresented backgrounds and economically disadvantaged schools; in one such instance, students gained an additional four months of learning.

Most recent data from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction show that Carolina-prepared educators overwhelming work in urban areas in North Carolina. More than 600 School of Education graduates work in Wake County schools, 339 in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and Orange County Schools, and 323 in Durham Public Schools. By comparison, only 112 alumni work in Chatham County Schools and 20 in Person County Schools.

In the 2022-23 academic year, the School has no student teachers or counseling interns placed in Siler City or Roxboro, despite being 32 and 37 miles away from Chapel Hill, respectively.

In partnership with and with additional commitments from Chatham County Schools and Person County Schools, the Fellows program aims to help change that.

The program will provide tuition and funding for travel to support students in the School’s Master of Arts in Teaching and School Counseling programs as they intern and learn from experienced, effective teachers and counselors in Chatham and Person counties’ Title 1 schools. Once graduated, those teachers and school counselors will have the opportunity to return to those schools as new school professionals and receive professional development opportunities to help them thrive in their profession. Combined with district funding, they will also receive a generous graduated bonus, earning more money over a 3-year period if they choose to continue working in their school.

Concurrently, School and district leadership in Person and Chatham counties will identify assistant principals from partnering Title 1 schools to engage in online and in-person professional development coursework at the School. Over two years, a cohort of assistant principals will learn from and work closely with educational leadership faculty members to gain knowledge and approaches that best support learning communities where these highly effective teachers and counselors are placed. They will identify and work to solve problems of practice within their schools. Cohorts will begin in the first and third years of the program.

In addition to the Fellows program, the School already partners with both school districts in various capacities. Chatham County Schools provides student teaching and counseling internship opportunities for current students. We also recently finalized an agreement that creates a partnership to address teacher shortages in Chatham County. With Person County Schools, the School of Education leads Carolina Community Academy, an innovative K-2 school in Roxboro.

“I do not know of another program like the Fellows for Inclusive Excellence,” Abd-El-Khalick said, “one that takes a comprehensive approach, beginning within an educator preparation program and engaging nearly every level of school personnel, to create the highest quality professional learning communities.

“The best education begins with investment in educators. This program exemplifies that.”