Strategic Issue Press Release

Posted June 6, 2019

Media Contact: Johanna Anderson; (704) 461-2792

The Belk Foundation Announces New Strategic Issue of
Equitable Access to Effective Teachers

Charlotte, NC – The Belk Foundation announces a new, five-year strategic focus on equitable access to effective teachers. In North Carolina, students in high poverty schools are half as likely to have access to a highly effective teacher as students in low poverty schools. Teachers are the most important in-school factor for student achievement, and this disparity in access contributes to opportunity gaps for students who are low income and/or of color.

“When students have access to excellent teachers, something exceptional sparks – students are engaged and make the academic gains that are so critical for life success,” said John R. Belk, Board Chair of The Belk Foundation. “There are excellent teachers across all communities in North Carolina. However, the data shows that the pool of effective teachers needs to drastically increase to meet the needs of our students, especially in high poverty schools.”

The Belk Foundation will work to expand the pool of effective beginning teachers by enhancing the quality of clinical experiences of student teachers and improving partnerships between teacher preparation providers and school districts. Recent research shows that teacher preparation linked to practice benefits teachers early in their career, and that the placement of those experiences matters a good deal for future effectiveness.

To extend the reach of current effective teachers, the Foundation will further advocate for innovative staffing models that allow highly effective teachers to reach more students directly or by coaching teams of teachers. These models have been shown to lead to large student academic gains according to a 2018 study from the American Institutes for Research and the Brookings Institution.

The Belk Foundation remains committed to third grade reading, an issue it began focusing on in 2013, as North Carolina initiated the Read to Achieve legislation. Alarmed by the low percentage of students reading proficiently by the end of third grade, the Foundation rallied community leaders and fellow philanthropists to create a Read Charlotte, a community effort to double the percentage of third graders reading on or above grade level. The Foundation continues its dedication to Read Charlotte and promoting evidence-based approaches to improving early literacy in Charlotte and across North Carolina.

“We have a bold vision to increase the odds that students who are low-income and/or of color will be taught by highly effective educators,” said Johanna Anderson, Belk Foundation Executive Director. “This new focus complements our commitment to third grade reading. 96% of third graders who are reading on grade level will go on to graduate high school – a statistic bolstered largely by excellent teachers, the most important in-school influence on students.”

The Belk Foundation’s two strategic issues of third grade reading and equitable access to effective educators provide a focal point to its advocacy and convening, beyond grantmaking investments. The Foundation considers grant inquires on a rolling basis through its Letter of Inquiry process on its website,, and extends final applications twice annually by invitation only. Those interested in learning more about the Foundation’s grantmaking priorities and strategic issue may read more in its Five-Year Impact Plan on its website.

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 fourth 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 $49 million as of March 31, 2019. Since 2000, The Belk Foundation has invested more than $49 million in our community. More information is available at