UNC Laboratory Schools

The UNC Lab School initiative aims to provide enhanced educational programming to students in low-performing schools and to plan demonstration sites for the preparation of future teachers and school administrators.

In 2016, the N.C. General Assembly law passed requiring the UNC Board of Governors to establish eight lab schools aimed at improving student performance in low-performing schools. The legislation was modified in 2017 to require the creation of nine lab schools rather than eight. The system has 15 institutions that offer educator-preparation programs.

The establishment of the UNC laboratory schools provides the opportunity to redefine and strengthen university partnerships with public schools, improve student outcomes, and provide high quality teacher and principal training. The Lab Schools will partner directly with local school districts to promote evidence-based teaching and school leadership, while offering real-world experience to the next generation of teachers and principals. UNC Lab Schools will serve every part of the University of North Carolina mission — teaching, research, and public service.


Operating Lab Schools

East Carolina University

East Carolina University Laboratory School with partner Pitt County Schools


Western Carolina University

Catamount School for Grades 6, 7, and 8 with partner Jackson County Public Schools (Opening Fall 2018)


Appalachian State University

Academy at Middle Fork with partner Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools


UNC Greensboro

UNCG-RCS Partnership School at Moss Street Elementary in Reidsville with partner Rockingham County Schools


UNC Wilmington

D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy with partner New Hanover County Schools


Media Coverage

Star News Online: New Virgo lab school prepares for first students

WUNC 91.5: New NC Lab Schools Aim To Meet Kids Where They Are

News & Observer: Eight UNC campuses proposed to operate lab schools

Smoky Mountain News: Catamount School embarks on its first year

News & Record: UNCG wants to open lab school in Rockingham County

Star News Online: Lab school would “re-energize” Virgo Preparatory Academy

The Robesonian: UNCP, PSRC to partner on lab school

Press Release: November 1, 2016



What is the purpose of the UNC Lab Schools?

According to the legislation, the purpose of the lab schools is to “improve student performance in local school administrative units with low-performing schools by providing an enhanced education program for students residing in those units and to provide exposure and training for teachers and principals to successfully address challenges existing in high needs school settings.” N.C.G.S. § 116-239.5(b)  

 Nine universities with educator preparation programs located across North Carolina must design and operate lab schools in eligible school districts where at least 25 percent of schools have been classified as low-performing, based on student achievement data.  Three of the nine laboratory schools may operate in non-qualifying school districts if the district elects to be included in the initiative in partnership with a participating university. The legislation governing the laboratory schools project focuses on three broad goals: (1) to improve the performance of students in local school administrative units with low-performing schools; (2) to provide exposure and training for teachers; and (3) to provide exposure and training for principals.


What do each of the UNC Lab Schools have in common?

Each is committed to the following:

•      Deliver high expectations to prepare students for college and life

•      Ensure students learn to read and communicate effectively

•      Address the academic, social, and emotional needs of all students

•      Harness the benefits of partnerships to strengthen learning, teaching, and school leadership


How were the universities selected to participate?

Two primary factors were considered in selection: geography and the capacity of the institutions’ schools of education and educator preparation programs. In considering the capacity of the educator preparation programs, we considered the number of undergraduate teacher candidates, the size of the education school faculty, and the amount of research money available to the schools.


Board of Governors Subcommittee

The UNC  Board of Governors has a subcommittee on Laboratory Schools. 


Subcommittee members

  • Phil Byers, chair
  • Ann Maxwell
  • Wendy Murphy
  • Darrell Allison
  • Rob Bryan
  • President Spellings, ex officio



Meeting notes

March 12, 2018

January 8, 2018

October 25, 2017


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