Can well-trained, highly-qualified teachers transform an entire region?
The NC State University College of Education believe they can, and will use a $7.25 million charitable grant from Raleigh-based Anonymous Trust to create the Transformational Scholarships Program to prove the point.
The grant will provide 100 need-based scholarships to undergraduate students from Eastern North Carolina, with emphasis on recruiting students from counties defined as Tier 1 and Tier 2, and supporting efforts to diversity the teaching profession.
Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties are among the most economically distressed in the state. The NC Department of Commerce ranks the state’s 100 counties each year based on their economic well-being. The state’s 40 most distressed counties are designated Tier 1 and the next 40 most distressed Tier 2. The 20 least distressed are designated Tier 3 counties.
“It [the scholarship program] will transform the lives of 100 students from Eastern North Carolina who may otherwise not be able to afford college,” said NC State College of Education Dean Mary Ann Danowitz. “But also, through the preparation they will receive in our college, these aspiring teachers will go on to transform the lives of those children and youth they teach.”
Danowitz added: “What’s more, as these Transformational Scholars become part of the change agent educational workforce of Eastern North Carolina, they will deepen the collective impact of teachers and administrative leaders working together to strengthen and lift up entire schools and communities.”
A diverse teaching workforce is needed to achieve the desired transformation, Danowitz said. The scholarship program helps move the state closer to that goal, she said.
“We know representation is imperative to improving educational outcomes of all learners,” Danowitz said. “But we also know that finances are one of the biggest barriers many students of color and bilingual students face when they consider higher education and a teaching career. Through this charitable grant, the Anonymous Trust is opening up doors of opportunity for many promising future teachers of color and bilingual teachers.”
Currently, more than half of K-12 students in North Carolina public schools are of color but only 20% of K-12 teachers are. Research conducted by Associate Professor Anna Egalite has found that students of color are more academically successful when matched with a same-race teacher.
The grant is the largest gift the College of Education has received for student scholarships since records have been kept. It’s also among the largest of its kind awarded to any college of education in North Carolina to prepare teachers.
Scholarships will be awarded based on students’ financial need; the community where they live; their commitment to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion and their commitment to the teaching profession.
The College of Education already has a strong presence in Eastern North Carolina through its Northeast Leadership Academy (NELA). The NELA started in 2010 and directed by Professor Bonnie Fusarelli. The principal preparation program prepares K-12 leaders to serve high-need schools in Northeastern North Carolina.
“Now, thanks to the charitable grant from the Anonymous Trust, we will be able to expand our reach in the area through the new Transformational Scholarships program and build a pipeline of highly effective teachers who will help advance equity and improve educational outcomes in a region in the state where they are needed the most,” Danowitz said. “This is paramount because we know that teachers are the most important school-based factor on student performance.”