Teaching & Leadership

Students taught by highly effective teachers for three consecutive years can outscore students
who had poor quality instructors over the same period by as much as 50 percentile points.

Research has found that teachers are the biggest in-school influencers on student achievement, with school leaders also playing a critical role—particularly when it comes to retaining quality teachers. After all, it’s the school leaders who create and foster an environment for successful teaching and learning.

It’s our goal to invest in high performing, outcomes-oriented, sustainable programs and strategies that contribute to the following goals for teachers and leaders:

  • Recruiting the most qualified candidates into the profession
  • Developing current professionals so that they can improve their ability to help students achieve
  • Retaining the highest performing professionals


We support organizations that measure their results and incorporate evidence-based strategies. Ultimately, we are looking for growth in student achievement as a result of excellent teachers and leaders. Our Outcomes Sought document summarizes our priorities and is a basis for discussion with grantees.


Teachers are the most important in-school factor of a student’s academic success. There are outstanding teachers across all North Carolina districts. And yet, research shows that low-income students and students of color are less likely to have access to the most effective teachers in their classrooms or their schools.

Our goal is a simple one: increase the odds that students who are low-income and/or of color will be taught by highly effective teachers.


The Belk Foundation is dedicated to identifying and advancing ways to expand the pool of well-prepared beginning teachers and extend the reach of highly effective teachers.


Expanding the pool of effective beginning teachers by:

  • Enhancing the quality of clinical experiences of student teachers more likely to be hired and excel in high-poverty schools
  • Brokering shared governance between school districts and teacher preparation providers


Extending the reach of highly effective teachers such that principals are:

  • Using effectiveness data to schedule teachers to students who need more help
  • Implementing innovative staffing models that extend the reach of highly effective teachers


The Foundation is committing time and advocacy, the work beyond grantmaking, to this strategic issue of equitable access to effective teachers for five years (2019-2024). Our two grantmaking focus areas, K-3 Achievement and Teaching and Leadership, that were established by The Belk Foundation Board in 2013, remain unchanged. Read Charlotte, launched by The Belk Foundation in 2015, and third grade reading proficiency will continue to be a top priority and strategic issue for the Foundation.


Why we need to expand the pool

  • Across North Carolina, there are over 100,000 K-12 public school teachers. 20% of NC teachers exceed expected growth standards for their students, and it’s lower in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools with 16% of teachers exceeding expected growth.
  • In North Carolina, there are 21,000 beginning teachers (0-3 years of experience). Beginning teachers are much more likely to be hired late and placed in higher poverty schools. In CMS, 19% of white students in low poverty schools had a beginning teacher compared to 37% of black students and 33% of Hispanic students in high poverty schools.

Why we need to extend the reach

  • If schools place excellent teachers in charge of small teams of typical teachers, students can consistently experience top-quartile teaching in math, and instruction nearly that effective in reading.
  • In EOG tested subjects in CMS, 42% of white students in low poverty schools are taught by a teacher who exceeded growth the previous year, compared to only 27% of black and Hispanic students in high poverty schools.


Members of the Advisory Group assist The Belk Foundation Board of Directors in fulfilling its mission relating to the strategic issue. Members are deeply knowledgeable about the strategic issue of more equitable access to excellent teachers.

Timisha Barnes-Jones, Winston Salem/Forsyth County Schools (formerly of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools)
Kevin Bastian, Education Policy Initiative at Carolina
Dan Goldhaber, American Institutes for Research and Center for Education Data & Research
Danielle Gonzales, New Mexico First (formerly of The Aspen Institute)
Cassandra Herring, Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity
Shayne Spalten, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation
Dwight Thompson, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Tom Tomberlin, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction