Two local universities are part of a state mandated program to help improve student outcomes in low-performing public schools. They will open so-called “laboratory” schools next fall.

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Appalachian State University are among a handful of institutions selected to help transform public schools in grades K-8. The colleges will run the experimental lab schools. This includes hiring teachers and principals, who will become university employees.

County districts will partner with the universities by providing support services like meals and transportation for students.

Randy Penfield, the Dean of the School of Education at UNCG, says the university hopes to start one at Moss Street Elementary in Reidsville. The Rockingham County Board of Education is expected to vote on the proposal later this month. He says the goal is to help struggling students overcome literacy barriers and other obstacles.

“It allows us to bring current practices and innovations that we are currently working on in the university setting into a school setting,” says Penfield.

Earlier this year, Appalachian State announced that it will create a laboratory school at Middle Fork Elementary School in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School District.

“So many of Appalachian's teacher education graduates work in North Carolina, and the university has at least one graduate teaching in every county in the state,” says Chancellor Sheri N. Everts. “This will be beneficial to both our students and those in Forsyth County schools. Furthermore, our faculty's research and data around this program likely will have implications for education programs nationwide.”

Educators say the legislation also allows more flexibility with curriculum in these schools. The focus will be on STEAM, or science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

According to the new law, at least nine UNC system universities with teacher education programs will be tapped to open lab schools in low-performing areas. All of the locations must be up and running by the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year.

*Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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