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Lab Schools, Teaching Fellows Top Education Oversight Committee Agenda

SaveLab Schools The Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee met on Tuesday for updates on several education issues and programs, including the state’s new Lab Schools and the reinstatement of the Teaching Fellows program.

Dr. Sean Bulson, Interim Vice President of University & P-12 Partnerships, gave a presentation on the University of North Carolina Laboratory Schools, which are public schools of choice created to improve the outcomes of K-8 students previously served in low-performing schools and to strengthen teacher and principal preparation. These schools are under the University of North Carolina System and operate fully independently from NC public schools. Western Carolina University and East Carolina University currently operate the state’s only Lab Schools, but the University System will expand this concept to Appalachian State University, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Wilmington, UNC-Charlotte, UNCPembroke, and North Carolina Central University. There are plans to add a ninth university to be identified at a later date.

Dr. Bulson’s update on the Lab Schools included information on:

• 2017 and 2018 reporting requirements

• The three-year timeline for the program

• Current enrollment demographics

• Implementation of program

• School operations, such as school structure, admissions, applications, parental involvement, and curriculum.

He also outlined what he identified as “technical adjustments” that the University System is recommending that the General Assembly address in 2018 to improve Lab School operations. He said adjustments are needed in the areas of child nutrition, employment considerations, criminal history checks, and financial reporting.

Next, Sara C. Ulm, Director of the newly reinstated North Carolina Teaching Fellows program, presented an update on developments to date to get the program up and running. The program’s timeline includes getting applications open for prospective scholarship recipients by Dec. 31 and preparing to make the first round of awards by April 1, 2018. She also outlined the selection criteria for educator preparation programs to participate with the Teaching Fellows program and said that the following have been selected for 2018: N.C. State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte, Elon University and Meredith College.

Several committee members raised questions about the selection criteria and the lack of geographic diversity reflected, and they asked why other university campuses with a strong reputation for teacher preparation were not included. The presiding Committee Co-Chairman, Senator Chad Barefoot (R- Wake), helped respond to those questions, since he was the lead sponsor of the 2017 legislation that launched the new Teaching Fellows program. He said the legislation requires that both public and private universities be selected for the program and that adjustments to campus eligibility may need to be adjusted in the future to allow other campuses to participate to serve more students.

More information on the committee discussion about the campus selection process can be found in this Raleigh News & Observer article.

The full presentations on the Teaching Fellows program and the Lab Schools can be found here.

Jacqueline Wyatt