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Belk Foundation announces new strategic issue: Equitable access to effective teachers

Over the last few years, the Belk Foundation has focused on two strategic issues that it sees as “key building blocks of a successful education” — K-3 achievement and excellent teachers and leaders. In the strategic issue of early learning, the foundation invests in partners that work to ensure students are performing on or above grade level in core subjects by third grade, including organizations like Read Charlotte.

Within its focus on great teachers and leaders, the foundation has highlighted the importance of clinical practice and invested in organizations like the North Carolina Large Districts Consortium, among other things. The foundation has convened leaders from across the state to create synergy for change, and invests in a variety of educational organizations, including the Kenan Fellows Program, Profound Gentlemen, Best NC, and more.

Today, the Belk Foundation announced a new, five-year strategic focus on equitable access to effective teachers. In the announcement, the foundation cites research that students in high-poverty schools are half as likely to have access to a highly effective teacher as students in low poverty schools.

John R. Belk, board chair of the Belk Foundation, said the following:

“When students have access to excellent teachers, something exceptional sparks – students are engaged and make the academic gains that are so critical for life success. There are excellent teachers across all communities in North Carolina. However, the data shows that the pool of effective teachers needs to drastically increase to meet the needs of our students, especially in high poverty schools.”

In a press release, Johanna Anderson, executive director of the foundation, tied this new strategic focus to the foundation’s lasting commitment to early literacy.

“We have a bold vision to increase the odds that students who are low-income and/or of color will be taught by highly effective educators. This new focus complements our commitment to third grade reading. 96% of third graders who are reading on grade level will go on to graduate high school – a statistic bolstered largely by excellent teachers, the most important in-school influence on students.”

Moving forward, the foundation’s two strategic issues will be third grade reading and equitable access to effective educators. The press release says the foundation will do the following things to ensure all students have access to excellent teachers:

  • “Work to expand the pool of effective beginning teachers by enhancing the quality of clinical experiences of student teachers and improving partnerships between teacher preparation providers and school districts.”
  • “Further advocate for innovative staffing models that allow highly effective teachers to reach more students directly or by coaching teams of teachers.”

EdNC’s Alex Granados recently sat down with Anderson to learn more about the foundation’s new focus. Listen here.

For more on the Belk Foundation’s grant making priorities and strategic issues, read this five-year impact plan and the foundation’s 2019 annual report.


Editor’s Note: The Belk Foundation supports the work of EducationNC.

Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC.