Editor’s Note: The University of North Carolina Academic and University Programs Division releases its annual report this week. Great Teachers and School Leaders Matter surveys the work of the Division and UNC’s fifteen educator preparation programs that are focused on the University’s goal of preparing more, higher quality teachers and school leaders for North Carolina’s public schools. EdNC will be highlighting the report’s profiles of teachers, school leaders, programs, and partnerships from across the state as part of a nine-part series. The full report will be available Monday morning here.

To change and to improve are two different things. – German proverb

Improvement of K-12 public education through investments in early grade learning and quality teachers and school leaders are the focus of the Belk Foundation. Research and programs, including many from the University of North Carolina (UNC) system, inform the Foundation’s investments, partnerships, and advocacy.

In 2010, The Belk Foundation decided to examine and redefine the mission of the family foundation. “After over 80 years as a foundation with a broad mission, we asked ourselves: How much impact are our grants having and how will we measure this impact? What has changed in the world as a result of our grants?’ These were hard questions to answer. Since 1928, the Foundation has spent more than $60 million to support organizations doing important work across our communities. But when we looked across our multiple investments, we weren’t quite sure what social change they had actually accomplished. Once we realized that we did not know exactly what impact we were having, we knew we had to change.”

In response, Morris led the Foundation through a process of learning and evaluation. Research and analysis from the UNC system informed the Foundation’s realignment. The outcome? While there are many critical issues facing the communities in which the Foundation invests, the Foundation elected to narrow its focus to an area of great importance: K-12 public education. After three years of studying the field and learning from grantees and experts, the Foundation was compelled by evidence that providing young people with quality teachers and a solid base of achievement by the third grade impacts their lifelong success. Thus, the Foundation committed to focus its grantmaking on lasting improvements in these two critical areas.

In the examination process, “We looked at research and took a lot of time to talk with different thought leaders in the field. Of course that brings us to Chapel Hill, to UNC General Administration (UNC GA), and we’re very keen on the research that they’re doing on the field of teaching.”

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