Top 25 NC schools includes 8 charters

Raleigh Charter High School is pictured.

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  • This week is National Charter School Week
  • 30,000 NC students are in charter schools, twice as many as in 2015.

The latest list of top high schools as published by U.S. News and World Reports has eight public charter schools among the top 25 high schools in North Carolina.

The list was compiled based on data for nearly 24,000 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Here are the eight schools making the top 25 along with their rank:

  • #3 Raleigh Charter High School
  • #4 Woods Charter School
  • #9 Gray Stone Day School
  • #12 Research Triangle High School
  • #14 Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy
  • #16 Pine Lake Preparatory
  • #22 Lake Norman Charter
  • #23 Community School of Davidson

Along with those making the top 25, another seven ranked in the top 50:

  • #26 Henderson Collegiate
  • #28 The Hawbridge School
  • #35 Triangle Math and Science Academy
  • #38 The North Carolina Leadership Academy
  • #41 KIPP Gaston College Preparatory
  • #45 Franklin Academy
  • #47 Oxford Preparatory School

In North Carolina, charter schools are considered public schools under the law. The body which approves and oversees charters is called the Charter School Advisory Board, often referred to as CSAB.

Contrary to charter opponents’ talking points, charters do not discriminate when enrolling students. Laws surrounding charter schools dictate they must accept students from all walks of life.

There are no district lines for charter schools, meaning a family can apply to the school of their choice regardless of zip code. If a charter school has more students apply than there are seats available, a blind lottery system is employed to determine who gets in.

Official oversight and accountability for charters are arguably more stringent than it is for their district counterparts. Unlike their traditional counterparts, a charter school can be closed for a variety of reasons. Typical reasons for closure are usually tied to financial or performance issues.

The strongest form of oversight, however, comes from parents. If unsatisfied with the results they are seeing, parents can take their students elsewhere.

There are currently 205 public charter schools in the state with an enrollment of around 130,000 students. If charters were their own district, it would be among the top 2 largest in the state.

Pre-pandemic, charter schools had large waitlists. For example, in 2017-18, over 37,000 students were on waitlists across 103 of the 174 charter schools in existence at that time.

Historically, charter schools have been underfunded compared to their traditional counterparts. Pre-pandemic, the average charter school received $1,100 less per pupil than their district counterparts.

Despite being underfunded, charters tend to outperform traditional district schools academically and do ‘more with less’ as they have greater budget flexibility, are smarter with their spending, and can make their own curriculum choices.

This story is a reprint from A.P. Dillon’s More to the Story.