RALEIGH, NC (February 25, 2016) – The Public School Forum of North Carolina has kicked off its Beginning Teacher Network (BTN) in Mecklenburg County with support from the Belk Foundation. The investment of $25,000 from the Belk Foundation comes as the program expands in Wake, Mecklenburg and Union counties with more on the way in 2016.

The BTN began as a pilot program in Wake County in 2015. The Public School Forum began recruiting teachers in Mecklenburg County last fall and held its first session in January with more than 80 teachers participating. Former Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teacher and 2014-2015 NC Teacher of the Year James E. Ford leads the BTN in his role as Program Director at the Forum.

“Supporting teachers early in their careers not only helps retain our teaching talent, but also accelerates their growth toward becoming great teachers,” said Forum President and Executive Director Keith Poston.

“Research has shown that students who are championed by excellent teachers and leaders are better positioned for success. That’s why we believe the Beginning Teacher Network’s mission to decrease teacher turnover rates and improve classroom practice is so important,” said Johanna Anderson, Executive Director of The Belk Foundation.

The BTN takes a three-pronged approach to teacher leadership by focusing on the areas of education policy, cross-curricular collaboration, and professional development.

  • Education Policy: Teachers participating in the network gain a baseline understanding of key education policy issues and strategies for engaging in policy discussions.
  • Cross-Curricular Collaboration: Through collaboration, teachers enhance their understanding of the North Carolina Standard Course of Study and their specific disciplines.
  • Professional Development: Teachers strengthen knowledge, develop skills, and learn strategies to improve classroom instruction and student learning.

The focus on policy is unique among programs for beginning teachers. “We weave policy into the program because we believe better education policy happens when classroom teachers are involved and engaged, sharing their real-world perspectives on how policy decisions impact student learning,” Poston said. By bringing together educational practice and policy, the Public School Forum hopes to produce teachers that are “empowered to lead and informed to change” in a new era of teaching.

BTN sessions expose teachers to experts in pedagogy and policy. Sessions are held monthly during the traditional academic year, after school hours, at central locations in participating counties. Additionally, the BTN offers teachers opportunities outside monthly work sessions to form networks using digital tools and social media for greater growth.

The BTN is a teacher-led network, with all activities and topics selected by teachers, for teachers. The Public School Forum of North Carolina administers the BTN, in line with its long, rich history of developing and leading programs that enable and empower teachers and education leaders, including the NC Teaching Fellows Program, the Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP), the Institute for Educational Policymakers, and the NC Center for Afterschool Programs (NC CAP).

Teachers interested in the 2016-17 program in Wake, Mecklenburg or Union counties can apply online at https://www.ncforum.org/beginning-teacher-network/.  School and district administrators interested in bringing this program to their counties should contact James Ford, Program Director, at jford@ncforum.org.

About The Belk Foundation

The Belk Foundation is a Charlotte-based family foundation that supports public education by strengthening teachers and school leaders, and ensuring that students are achieving on or above grade level by the third grade. Now in its third generation of family leadership, The Belk Foundation serves as the public expression of gratitude and commitment shown by the family that created the Belk department store organization. The Belk Foundation had assets of more than $50 million as of May 31, 2015. Since 2000, The Belk Foundation has distributed more than $42 million to charities across the Southeast. More information is available at www.belkfoundation.org.

About the Public School Forum of North Carolina

Since 1986, the Public School Forum of North Carolina has been an indispensable and nonpartisan champion of better schools and the most trusted source in the state for research and analysis on vital education issues. We bring together leaders from business, education and government to study education issues, develop ideas, seek consensus, and ultimately inform and shape education policy. We do that through research, policy work, innovative programs, advocacy, and continuing education for educators and policymakers. Follow us on Twitter @theNCForum and visit our website at https://www.ncforum.org/

[Photo via “Support network debuts for beginning teachers in Mecklenburg, Union,” Charlotte Observer, October 22, 2015]
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