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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Advancement School

by Paul E. Kuhl, 2006

"City Memorial Hospital, 1924." The building was leased to the Advancement School. Image courtesy of Digital Forsyth. The North Carolina Advancement School in Winston-Salem was one of the education initiatives of Governor Terry Sanford (1961-65), who conceived it as a counterpart to the Gifted and Talented Programs begun in 1962. With North Carolina's school dropout rate among the nation's highest at 40 percent, Sanford wanted to address the needs of academic underachievers-those with average or above average abilities who were nevertheless performing poorly in school and likely to drop out. Sanford charged Ralph McCallister, formerly of Syracuse University and the Chautauqua Institute, with assembling educational experts to design a strategy to keep such underachievers in school. With a planning grant from the U.S. Office of Education, McCallister, working principally with Sanford adviser John Ehle and Harold Howe II, former superintendent of public schools in Scarsdale, N.Y., developed and proposed the Advancement School.

The Advancement School, like the North Carolina School of the Arts and the Governor's School for the Gifted, was to be a residential facility and a teaching laboratory and research center with three fundamental tasks: to assemble existing materials and techniques used to teach students achieving from one to three grades below national norms, to develop new materials and techniques to further students' achievement levels and educational aspirations, and to work with classroom teachers so that materials could be transferred from the residence-school setting to local schools.

In a unique arrangement, the Learning Institute of North Carolina (LINC), headed by Howe and located at the Quail Roost Conference Center in Rougemont, contracted with the State Board of Education to operate the Advancement School until 30 June 1967. With a combination of state funds and grants from the U.S. Office of Education and the Carnegie Corporation, Advancement School director Gordon L. McAndrew leased the vacated City Memorial Hospital from Winston-Salem. The Advancement School opened its doors to 82 boys for a six-week pilot session on 8 Nov. 1964.

In addition to instructional techniques, the Advancement School pioneered in race relations. Ten years after the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, only about 6 percent of the state's black children attended integrated schools. In the Advancement School's pilot session, there were 51 white children, 22 blacks, and 9 Native Americans. During the regular sessions, African American enrollment averaged 25 percent to 30 percent of the student body. The Advancement School established firm ties with schools in Hoke and Robeson Counties, and Native American enrollment in at least one session constituted about 40 percent of the student body. Donald G. Hayes, the assistant director, made room assignments without consideration to racial identity, a practice continued throughout the life of the school.

From November 1964 through June 1967, the Advancement School enrolled 2,331 students from 133 of the state's 169 school systems. Although the legislature approved continuation of the Advancement School beyond 1967, it drastically reduced the budget and placed the school under the supervision of the State Board of Education. The school enrolled only 144 students in January 1968, and after the spring 1969 session, enrollment dropped below 100. A nonresidency component was added, and after 1971 the school only enrolled day students. In its final three years, the Advancement School continued as a year-round day school for Winston-Salem students. In 1975 a budget crisis forced the legislature to make massive cuts. The state provided the Advancement School only enough funds to prepare a final report. A skeleton staff moved to Graylyn Estate on the campus of Wake Forest University, where it conducted a few more workshops, completed its report, and closed the school in 1976.

References:

John N. Bridgman Jr. and Ernestine M. Godfrey, The Investigation and Treatment of Underachievement in North Carolina: Final Report, 1964-1976: The North Carolina Advancement School, Winston-Salem (1976).

Chester Davis, "North Carolina Advancement School: A New Approach to the Student Who Can Do . . . but Doesn't," Southern Education Report (July-August 1965).

Terry Sanford, But What about the People? (1966).

Additional Resources:

North Carolina Advancement School/Learning Institute of North Carolina, 1961-1967 and Undated, Ralph McCallister Papers, 1936-1985, UNC Libraries: http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/m/McCallister,Ralph.html#d1e647

Advancement School by Godon McAndrew: http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED002671&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=ED002671

Thompson, Charles, et al. "The North Carolina Advancement School 1964-1967." 1967. ERIC No. ED 023 762. http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED023762 (accessed May 29, 2015).

Image Credit:

"City Memorial Hospital, 1924." Image courtesy of Digital Forsyth. Available from http://www.digitalforsyth.org/photos/4720 (accessed November 8, 2012).

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Comments

Comment: 

I attended the winter session 1966. I was from an all African American school in rural Craven County. I didn't learn until years later when the guidance counselor informed me the school was designed for under achieving students and that my application for the NC Governor's School was turned down. I was a pretty good student, at least at my school, with mostly A's. Going in, I thought it was mostly about integration. I felt out of place almost immediately.

But it was a racial incident that is seared in my memory above all else. After two or three weeks, I made it to the #2 spot of the academic ladder. Each Friday, they posted the list and we would crowd around to see our positions. The top three students were always taken out to a steak dinner. I remember getting a tutorial on eating at a fancy restaurant. The five of us (three students, the head of school and someone else) arrive at the restaurant. In hindsight it was probably a private club of some sort. There was a commotion at the entrance. I remember the head of school saying we've never had a problem before. He raised his voice in disgust. It didn't matter. We are denied entrance because I'm Black. I was no stranger to segregation or Jim Crow, but it did hurt. They were willing to let the others in. We all ended up at McDonald's, which is where a 13-year would want to be anyway. McDonald's became the go-to place from that point forward. Perhaps it was that incident caused the life long soft spot for McDonald's.

When I returned to my home school, things didn't go well. I was far ahead of the other students, so I guess I have NCAS to thank for that. I was offered admission to a prestigious New England prep school. I turned it down as my father was ill. I ended up running the family farm and finishing high school. I finished college at UNCG, of all places, and became an editor of a business magazine in Washington, D.C. Later, I married my college sweetheart and joined a major consumer package good company in New York. I retired recently as a Vice President in Human Resources. I guess it all worked out. I would love to learn more and reconnect with some of the fellas.

Comment: 

Dear Mr. Cox,

Thank you very much for sharing your story.

Mike Millner, NC Government & Heritage Library

Comment: 

I was in the eighth grade for the second time making straight "F's". I had low self esteem. While I can not say that NCAS was completly responsible for my turnaround it absolutely pointed me in the right direction. While I think fondly of the school I have few detailed memories. I attended in 1965, I was looking for documentation to help me reconstruct my memory. I retired in 2014 in IT network strategy for telephony/voice and telecommunications for GSK after 30 years 1 months. I had 13 years at GTE 1970 - 1982. No college education. A very positive experience that set me on the right course. I have retired well.

Comment: 

MarshaI,

I too attended this school in 1964 or 65 and would like to know more about it too. I can't recall any of the names of the teachers or my class mates. I was from Grier school in Gastonia, NC. Looking for anybody who ever attended there to help me fill in the blanks.

Comment: 

After more reading and research... I found that the school did continue until 1975 as a day school only. I learned a lot from this experience. Some good and some not so good. In any case it changed my life.

Comment: 

I attended in 1967 when I was in 8th grade. I still dropped out of school. Because I needed to work. I started a small underground construction company and it has done fairly well for me. NCAS ? Very possible.

Comment: 

Looking for information about Susan Moore who taught art there. If anyone remembers anything, please give me shout. Thanks!

Comment: 

Somethings not right about this... I was a student in 1970 or 1971.

Comment: 

I went to the North Carolina Advancement School. It was an all boys school when I was there.

Comment: 

I attended NCAS in the Spring of 1964. As an African American, my goals definitely changed after attending the school. I graduated college, I became the first African American flight attendant for a major airline and then went on to become the first A.A. male, under contract, to model for a major department store chain nationwide. I recently retired from Wake Forest Baptist Health and I am presently working with Washington, D.C. galleries collecting and selling art. I can not say NCAS made these things happen for me, but it certainly allowed me to realize they could. I did and still do appreciate the opportunity given to me by Governor Sanford and the wonderful staff at NCAS.

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