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Faculty and Staff

Great Schools Need Great Leaders

NC State University will lead a $5.6 million effort to redesign principal preparation programs as a partner in the Wallace Foundation’s five-year, $47 million national initiative.

NC State was one of seven selected from a pool of about 700 U.S. principal preparation programs, says education professor Bonnie Fusarelli, principal investigator for the grant and director of the Northeast Leadership Academy, which trains principals and assistant principals to serve as turnaround specialists in underperforming schools.

NC State's Northeast Leadership Academy prepares principals to serve as turnaround specialists in underperforming schools.
NC State’s Northeast Leadership Academy prepares principals to serve as turnaround specialists in underperforming schools.

“We know that great schools have great leaders, so we’re delighted to have support to improve and customize training for North Carolina principals,” Fusarelli says. “NC State will be working with 16 school districts and with corporate partners that are donating their expertise in data analytics and leadership training.”

NC State will expand its outreach efforts to include the Wake County and Johnston County school districts, as well as continue work in 14 districts that participate in the Northeast Leadership Academy (NELA). The NELA districts are Bertie, Edgecombe, Franklin, Granville, Halifax, Hertford, Martin, Nash-Rocky Mount, Northampton, Roanoke Rapids, Vance, Warren, Washington and Weldon City.

Fusarelli says the Wallace funding will support work on four goals:

  • Developing and implementing high-quality courses of study at NC State for preservice training of future principals
  • Building strong collaborations between the university and school districts
  • Creating a Leadership Tracking System to gather data about graduates’ performance that will be used to improve the program
  • Providing preservice training to aspiring leaders in partner districts and continuous professional development for current school leaders

“We’ll be redesigning our master’s degree program in school administration so that it can be delivered in the participating districts,” says Tim Drake, assistant professor of education and co-principal investigator for the Wallace Foundation grant. “In effect, we’re taking this to the people, rather than asking them to come to us, which is part of NC State’s mission as a land-grant university.”

Cary-based analytics software giant SAS will help develop a leadership tracking system for the project. BB&T will donate a week of corporate leadership training for all NC State educational leadership students as well as Johnston County’s current assistant principals.

The new funding will enable the NELA project to expand its work with struggling schools, where it has demonstrated strong results.

One example is NELA graduate Carol Mizelle, a principal at Colerain Elementary in Bertie County. When Mizelle began work as a principal, only 30 percent of students were proficient on state tests. Now, the rate has risen to 55 percent.

“Carol has taken her school from an ‘F’ to a ‘C’ grade in two years,” Fusarelli says. “That’s remarkable, particularly when you realize that test scores commonly drop following a change of leadership.”

The Wallace grant is the latest recognition for NC State, which is building a national reputation for excellence in preparing school leaders. NC State’s College of Education has $15.3 million in current state and private foundation grants for preparing school leaders. Since 2010, NC State has received more than $22.6 million in external grant funding to support NELA, which is one of five programs nationally to be honored with an Exemplary Educational Leadership Preparation Program Award from the University Council for Educational Administration.