RALEIGH, NC (December 4, 2014) – The Public School Forum of North Carolina announced today it will expand the North Carolina Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP) to Western North Carolina beginning in 2015. The program focuses on preparing high-potential teachers, as well as school and district administrators, for leadership roles in education and related fields. The program expansion was made possible through a US Department of Education GEAR UP grant awarded to Appalachian State University. The Public School Forum of North Carolina is one of the program partners. GEAR UP stands for “Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs” and is a national initiative designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

The Public School Forum has led the NC EPFP program since 1992. It is the only statewide program of its kind that focuses on leadership and professional development in the context of education policy. EPFP has graduated more than 700 Fellows and has a rich alumni network in North Carolina and nationally. North Carolina’s program is one of 13 EPFP programs nationally affiliated with the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) in Washington, D.C. The program first began in North Carolina in 1979 and has attracted participants from public schools, higher education, nonprofit organizations, state agencies, and a diverse array of education organizations across the state.

Appalachian State University received two GEAR UP grants totaling nearly $30 million – the only GEAR UP grants awarded in North Carolina this year. The EPFP program expansion is funded at $150,000 a year for seven years, for a total of $1.05 million. The new EPFP West program will serve teachers, administrators and other education leaders from eleven Western North Carolina counties: Allegheny, Ashe, Burke, Clay, Graham, Madison, Rutherford, Swain, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey counties. The new cohort will run parallel to the existing Raleigh-based NC EPFP program.

“Our Education Policy Fellowship Program has provided immense benefit by developing North Carolina’s education leaders throughout its long, rich history. We’re thrilled to expand the program to better serve these 11 counties in Western North Carolina,” said Keith Poston, President and Executive Director, Public School Forum of North Carolina. “The program pushes participants to grapple with issues and perspectives on education policy that they don’t always encounter in their daily work. We are excited to prepare the new cohort to engage in the critical education debates that shape the quality of our public schools.”

Currently each EPFP class includes a cohort of 20-30 Fellows who focus on education policy issues and the wide range of factors that influence education in North Carolina. With the expansion, the number of Fellows graduating each year will double. The Public School Forum of North Carolina will design and implement the new program for Appalachian State GEAR UP and will examine the relative impact of different types of leadership on students’ academic outcomes.

For more information about Appalachian State University GEAR UP, visit http://gearup.appstate.edu/. For more information about the Forum’s Education Policy Fellowship Program, visit http://www.ncforum.org/education-policy-fellowship-program/.

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