Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Project L.I.F.T.

READ these related resources:
• Recruiting in an Opportunity Culture—Lessons Learned
 Ranson IB Middle School Launches an Opportunity Culture
 Ashley Park PreK-8 Launches Multi-Classroom Leadership and Blended Learning
• New Teaching Roles Create Culture of Excellence in High-Need Schools
• One Teacher’s View of Becoming a Paid Teacher-Leader

 Project L.I.F.T. News Release
• CMS News Release

WATCH these related videos:
• Recruiting in an Opportunity Culture
• Ranson and Ashley Park Choose an Opportunity Culture

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ Project L.I.F.T., an innovative zone within a large urban school district where leaders are committed to reaching every student with excellence, became the first implementation site in Public Impact’s initiative to extend the reach of excellent teachers and their teams for more pay, within budget, and build an Opportunity Culture for teachers and students. Four schools within Project L.I.F.T. received intensive design assistance from Public Impact and its partners to select and adapt Opportunity Culture school models to extend the reach of their excellent teachers and their teams in the 2013–14 school year.

charlotte-mecklenburg-schools-sm-thumbIn January 2014, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools announced that it is scaling up this initiative across the district, with 17 additional schools implementing the new models in the first year and more schools implementing each of the two years after that, with almost half of the district’s schools implementing by 2017–18.

BelkThe Belk Foundation in Charlotte will fund transition costs of the scale-up with a grant of $505,000, one of the foundation’s largest ever. The additional teacher pay is funded from regular school budgets, not the foundation’s grant.

To implement an Opportunity Culture, each school selects a design team that includes teachers to design an approach to meet its students’ needs and teachers’ talents, using the school models that were developed with significant input and feedback from teachers. These school models enable excellent teachers to:

  • lead multiple classrooms,
  • specialize in their best subjects and roles,
  • use digital learning to free their time to reach more students, plan, and collaborate, and
  • employ interactive technology to teach students in multiple schools.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg teachers in the new reach-extension roles earn pay supplements of up to $23,000, approximately a 50 percent increase above average teacher pay in North Carolina. In spring 2013, Project L.I.F.T. was flooded with 708 applications for the 19 new reach-extension teaching positions in the pilot schools, where some teaching jobs previously went unfilled. Subsequently, 50 district schools expressed interest in joining the initiative.

Learn more:

Vignette on recruiting success—even better in the second year than the first, with an uptick in quantity and quality of applicants:

Recruiting in an Opportunity Culture—Lessons Learned
Accompanying video—principals, district leaders on how an Opportunity Culture attracts great teachers

Studies on the early days of implementation:

Ranson IB Middle School Launches an Opportunity Culture
Ashley Park PreK-8 Launches Multi-Classroom Leadership and Blended Learning
Accompanying video: Ranson and Ashley Park Choose an Opportunity Culture

Studies on initial Opportunity Culture school design teams’ work in Charlotte:

Charlotte, N.C.’s Project L.I.F.T.: New Teaching Roles Create Culture of Excellence in High-Need Schools
Charlotte, N.C.’s Project L.I.F.T.: One Teacher’s View of Becoming a Paid Teacher-Leader

In Charlotte, Public Impact is working with Education First and Education Resource Strategies to guide school teams through the design and implementation process.

LIFT logo NEWThe L.I.F.T. initiative also includes the creation of the L.I.F.T. Academy to provide personalized, intensive support for struggling middle and high school students within the zone. Using a combination of digital learning and in-person instruction, the L.I.F.T. Academy will place an excellent teacher in charge of each student’s learning to help them get on track and then leap ahead.

Public Impact’s work in Charlotte is made possible by Project L.I.F.T.’s multi-funder collaborative, which includes local and national private and corporate foundations. For more information, please visit

Read the news release announcing L.I.F.T. as an Opportunity Culture site, and the release announcing the scale-up.

Listen to a WFAE news report about 708 applications that flooded in this spring for 26 new reach-extension jobs at four Project L.I.F.T. schools.

Watch this video of principals at Ashley Park PreK-8 and Ranson IB Middle in Charlotte discussing why they chose to create an Opportunity Culture in their schools—and how it helps them recruit and retain great teachers.

Watch this video of district leaders and principals discussing how an Opportunity Culture is attracting teachers to previously hard-to-staff schools.

Watch this video about Project L.I.F.T. and an Opportunity Culture, from the 2014 N.C. Emerging Issues Forum.

Learn more about becoming a site in the Opportunity Culture initiative.