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N.C. State Program Wins Rural School Leader Award

The Northeast Leadership Academy at North Carolina State University has won a national award from the Virginia-based University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) for its work in preparing principals and assistant principals to work as "turnaround specialists" in rural North Carolina districts.

The two-year program, which trains administrators to work in 14 rural districts in northeastern North Carolina, includes an internship and professional development opportunities. Graduates must commit to working in one of 14 rural districts for three years.  

Nearly 50 percent of schools in North Carolina are rural and nearly half of the state's students attend those schools, according to a recent report by The Rural School and Community Trust. The state has a high percentage of rural minority students and rural English language learners, and nearly 24 percent of its rural students live below the federal poverty line. Rural adults in North Carolina have one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. 

Nationwide, rural districts often struggle to recruit and retain administrators, as well as teachers. A 2013 report found that in states like Wisconsin, small, rural districts are affected the most by principal retirements. These districts are less likely to have programs dedicated to training future leaders. According to a 2009 National Center for Education Statistics report, only 17 percent of rural school districts in the country have school leadership training programs, compared to 51.6 percent of city school districts. 

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