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Press Release

CHAPEL HILL – University of North Carolina President Margaret Spellings today announced the eight UNC institutions that have been identified as potential candidates to establish and operate laboratory schools serving students in kindergarten through 8th grade, as required by a provision in the 2016-17 state budget enacted in July. The plan has been submitted to the legislature’s Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations, as required.

The UNC system includes 15 institutions that offer educator-preparation programs.  After initial consultations, these eight were identified as candidates to establish and operate lab schools:

  • Appalachian State University
  • East Carolina University
  • North Carolina Central University
  • University of North Carolina at Charlotte
  • University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • University of North Carolina at Pembroke
  • University of North Carolina at Wilmington
  • Western Carolina University.

Under the legislation, the lab schools must be located in public school districts where at least 25 percent of schools have been classified as low-performing, based on student achievement data. They will operate as public schools of choice, with a mission to improve student performance in eligible school districts and provide exposure and training for teachers and principals to successfully address challenges existing in high-needs school settings.

“I view this project as an opportunity to redefine how universities partner with public schools to improve student outcomes and provide high quality teacher and principal training,” said Spellings.  

“Through these lab schools, we’ll be able to partner directly with local school districts to promote evidence-based teaching and school leadership, all while offering real-world experience for the next generation of teachers and principals. These schools will meld every part of our mission — teaching, research, and public service,” said Spellings.  We look forward to working with the General Assembly, local school districts, community members, and other stakeholders to expand opportunities for educational success.”

Last month, representatives from UNC, the State Board of Education, the NC Department of Public Instruction, and local school districts participated in a day-long meeting to identify and discuss the significant operational, programmatic, and policy issues that must be addressed in creating successful lab schools.

Some of the schools are expected to begin operations in the 2017-18 academic year. An initial review of local school districts identified 36 that are eligible locations for lab schools, many of which are in reasonable proximity to a designated UNC institution. Subject to further consultations, UNC aims to solidify the precise districts in which the first schools will be located by early 2017. President Spellings and her staff will support efforts by participating UNC institutions to identify and collaborate with partnering school districts.

The oldest public university in the nation, the University of North Carolina enrolls more than 225,000 students and encompasses all 16 of North Carolina’s public institutions that grant baccalaureate degrees, as well as the NC School of Science and Mathematics, the nation’s first public residential high school for academically gifted students.  UNC campuses support a broad array of distinguished liberal-arts programs, two medical schools and one teaching hospital, two law schools, a veterinary school, a school of pharmacy, 11 nursing programs, 15 schools of education, five schools of engineering, and a renowned arts conservatory.  The UNC Center for Public Television, with its 12-station statewide broadcast network, is also under the University umbrella.