North Carolina


Raleigh: Quality early learning provides boost to area businesses from America’s Edge on Vimeo.


Did you know that in North Carolina:

  • Almost 2.3 million children (under the age of 18) live in the state;
  • 37 percent of children live in a household with only one parent;
  • 64 percent of eighth graders are below grade level in math;
  • 65 percent of fourth graders are reading below grade level;
  • 17.5 percent of high school students fail to graduate on time;
  • Two thirds of all new jobs created between 2008 and 2018 will require some type of formal education beyond high school;
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs will grow by 17 percent in between 2008 and 2018, and 91 percent of STEM jobs will require post-secondary education by 2018.

Click here for the complete North Carolina Fact Sheet.


Our 2014 Policy Priorities

Education policy at the federal and state levels needs to address the range of knowledge and skills needed for all students to be fully ready for college and careers. Policy opportunities include:

  • Skill Development
  • Measurable Results
  • Accountability
  • Professional Development and Teaching Practice
  • Academic Standards and Aligned Assessments

 Click here to view the policy actions in support of increased workforce skill levels in North Carolina.

Federal Policy Priorities:

In 2014, America’s Edge members will be urging their legislators and Congressional delegation to do the following:

1. Support the state-federal partnership that would increase access to and quality of pre-k to children across the country.

This proposal is being discussed as part of the federal budget negotiations that began after the government shutdown. If not included in a budget resolution this year, our work to support this partnership will continue in 2014.

2. Protect access to high quality early care and education and increase quality of programs.

• Fight against cuts, and where possible seek increases, for Head Start, Early Head Start and both the discretionary and mandatory funding streams of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG);

• Seek quality improvements to early learning programs through reauthorization of Head Start/Early Head Start, and CCDBG);

• Maintain funding for Race to the Top, with focus on funding for Early Learning Challenge program and innovative high school programs;

• Seek funding opportunities for innovative high school programs through ESEA and Perkins Reauthorizations (Tier II);

• Protect the current the structure of the CTC

3.Strengthen our nation’s education system through federal education reform.

• Provide incentives for states to shift away from the traditional K-12 approach towards an educational system that incorporates early learning into the educational structure so kids are ready to learn and succeed when they enter kindergarten;

• Support innovative high school education models, which can help vulnerable youth develop critical skills and be prepared for careers and/or post-secondary education;

• Improve graduation rates measurement and accountability, including supporting both data systems that can serve as an “early warning system” for kids headed towards dropping out, as well as the use of evidence-based programs to keep kids in school and on the path towards graduation;

• Provide the support of K-12 programs which enhance academic outcomes;

• Creates a system of recruitment, professional development and retention for teachers so that more students – especially those most at-risk for adverse academic outcomes– have access to high-quality teachers; and

• Ensure that, to the maximum extent possible, funds are directed toward evidence-based approaches in the highest-need communities.



Developing Necessary Skill Sets


On January 17, 2012, a new survey of North Carolina businesses – released by the state’s Association of Workforce Development Boards – revealed that despite continued high unemployment in the state, employers in that state struggled to find skilled workers to fill current job openings. The report reinforced other findings about workforce skills shortages at the state and national level, and underscored the importance of continued investments in workforce development strategies to maintain U.S. competitiveness. Click here to read the report.

To overcome the challenges of the skills gap, we must train and re-train our current workforce. We must also develop skills in young people to ensure that they enter the workforce better prepared.  To be equipped with the knowledge and abilities businesses now require, students must:

  •  Master Core Academic Content
  •  Think Critically and Solve Complex Problems
  •  Work Collaboratively
  •  Communicate Effectively
  •  Learn How to Learn
  • Develop Academic Mindsets
Click here to read a description of these skills.

Innovative high school education models, along with rigorous standards, assessments, and accountability systems, can help to address the skills gap affecting businesses across the country. Business leaders know the importance of educational standards and aligned assessments that will help students master core academic content, and train them to think critically, solve complex problems and communicate effectively (i.e. deeper learning skills) that they will need to be competitive in today’s highly-skilled workforce.

Click here to view more on the background of these standards.

Click here to learn more about standards for math and standards for English language arts.

Click here to view more on North Carolina’s standards.

Bringing Career Relevance to High School Classrooms

In conjunction with these standards and assessments, innovative high school have shown promising results in preparing students for success in college and career. Often called “smaller learning communities,” education models such as “Career Academies” integrate career relevance training with a rigorous academic curriculum, equipping students with important skills highly valued by employers. These schools:

  • Are comprised of a group of students who take classes together for at least two years and are taught by the same group of teachers
  • Provide a college preparatory curriculum based on a career theme that helps students see relationships and connections between academic subjects and their application in the real world.
  • Develop partnerships with employers, the community, and colleges.
View videos of North Carolina high school students engaging in programs that integrate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) lessons and work-based and project-based learning, which help students tie what they learn in the classroom to real-world applications, while teaching them vital skills, such as communication, collaboration, and critical thinking.





America’s Edge members Tony Marshall, Rick McNeel and Harvey Schmitt met with Senator Kay Hagan


On August 6, 2012, America’s Edge members, Tony Marshall, Rick McNeel and Harvey Schmitt met with Senator Kay Hagan to discuss the importance of early learning and innovative high school programs as ways to combat the growing skills gap.





Meeting with Senator Burr

America’s Edge members Tom Haffner, Tony Marshall, and Rick McNee with Senator Richard Burr



On October 10, 2012, America’s Edge members, Tom Haffner, Tony Marshall, and Rick McNee met with Senator Richard Burr to discuss the economic benefits of early learning and innovative high school education models.







On March 26, Charlotte business leaders released a report (Click here to view the reportthat reveals the financial costs of the state’s “skills gap,” and highlights the abilities that employers say they need in current and future workers. The report shows that if current education and labor market trends continue, North Carolina could face a shortage of 46,000 workers in the coming years, due largely to the gap between the jobs that require certain skills and/or post-secondary education, and the number of residents who will be prepared to fill them.

Bob Morgan, MIke Waite, Clifton Vann, Susan Gates, Tom Haffner and Weston Andress released a new report on North Carolina’s ‘skills gap” at the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.

The America’s Edge report details the proven impact of innovative high school education models in preparing students for current and future jobs, and high-quality early learning programs to give children a foundation for long-term academic achievement. The business leaders also noted that the state will not need to wait 20 years for the benefits from early learning, citing surprising new research showing that investments in quality early learning will yield an immediate economic benefit for North Carolina businesses.

Click here to view the report.


America’s Edge Members

America’s Edge members Harvey Schmitt, Tony Marshall, Rick McNeel, Brenda Berg, Machelle Sanders, and John Metcalf attended the report release

On November 13, 2012, six North Carolina business leaders released a new report at a press conference in Raleigh, which highlighted the short- and long-term economic benefits of investments in early care and education.

Click here to read the report.

Read coverage of the report from WRAL: “Business leaders tout value of early education funding”

Watch the entire press conference below:




*For more information, contact National Director, Sara Watson.

Phone: (202) 408-9284