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Raleigh Charter ranked among nation's best high schools

Posted October 29, 2009

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— Two national magazines have recognized Raleigh Charter High School as one of the nation’s best high schools.

Raleigh Charter ranked 20th in U.S. News and World Report’s list, and Newsweek ranked the school 34th in the country.

“There’s not a discussion of ‘Oh, we want to have good test scores’ or ‘We want to have good rankings.’ I think it’s a by-product of a focus on learning,” said teacher Lisa Huddleston.

Raleigh Charter among nation's best high schools Raleigh Charter among nation's best high schools

Raleigh Charter, a college-preparatory school, opened in 1999 and currently has 535 students. Students must apply and be chosen by lottery to attend the school, which has children from nine counties across the state.

In its first year, Raleigh Charter attained the state’s highest End-of-Course test scores, and in 2001 became the first high school in the state to be named a School of Excellence, according to school leaders.

The school resides in historic Pilot Mill, a restored textile mill on the National Register of Historic Places, and has freedom to govern a little differently than traditional public schools.

“In many ways, we try to use the Charter Law as an education laboratory to try out new and innovative ideas,” said Principal Thomas Humble.

For example, school officials vary the schedule and build in days with six, 45-minute periods for in-depth learning or community work projects. Also, teachers don't have to be licensed as long as they have industry or academic experience.

Class sizes are small with about 19 students to every teacher. As a college-prep school, many students take Advanced Placement courses and test well, school leaders said.

“My favorite question is ‘What if? What if you did this? What would happen?’ If I can get a kid to buy-in to the what-if question, we’ve got them for life,” Huddleston said.

Raleigh Charter High School is one of 100 charter schools in the state. About 96 percent of its seniors go on to college, according to the school’s statistics.


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  • hawtree Nov 5, 2009

    Lets try to figure this out. RCHS is a charter school a public school that blindly selects it's students out of a lottery. You can go to watch it! They do have a basic entry level of math. All students must be at least able to do algebra one. The funding that the charter school is about 2/3rds as much per student as the public schools. There is no cost to go to a charter school, but you must provide your own transportation, and there is no lunch served. I am proud of my charter high school student, and her friends. They work so hard and have accomplished so much more than when I was in high school. The work is hard but it prepares this kids to be leaders and competitive in the international market place. Volunteerism is encouraged, but with a group of kids like this it is a joy. These kids deserve the accolades that they receive and so do the teachers at RCHS, they make it all happen!

  • bk3s Oct 30, 2009

    Your idea sounds a lot like magnet schools, hate to say it but you really didn’t create that concept.

    I’ll grant that your idea may has merit though. The question now becomes, what are you going to do to implement that idea and make the education system better? I’ll warn you, it may take some volunteer work, and you may need to get some help from other parents who share the same philosophy. Now, once you work to start providing for the Minds and not the Means, what’s so wrong with requiring other people who are also benefiting from your idea, to contribute to maintaining and perhaps improving upon what you started?

    It easy to sit behind a keyboard and lament about what THEY should do, but once you have to start taking action, mandatory volunteer hours from the people who are using the system is not such a bad requirement.

  • lesky901 Oct 30, 2009

    I stated earlier that the RANKING of RCHS is a farce. It is a comment on sloppy journalism, especially on the part of WRAL.

    I have not seen an accurate desciption of RCHS's admission policies, which are much more restrictive than merely being ready for Alegbra I, mentioned in local media stories about the school. Come on, roughly 75% of slots only open to students who have already taken Algebra I or higher in middle school. This is a glaring ommission on the part of the media, IMO.

  • frank7 Oct 30, 2009

    Reading these comments, one of the biggest themes I see is a lack of understanding in what a charter school is. To help clear this up, I would like to recommended an essay on charter schools that was written by one of the teachers at RCHS. This essay may be found at: http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/kenny/essays/charterschools.html

  • TechRescue Oct 30, 2009

    Some of these comments make me laugh out loud...

    "The ranking is a farce." - Lesky901
    "Spoiled Kids School" - Professor

    You don't have a clue... Raleigh Charter is head and shoulders above every public school I have ever been in. When we attended the open house, tours were given by the students - bright, engaging, and personable STUDENTS. The SAT scores are significantly higher than any public school, even though over 95% of the students take the test (versus Wake's 67%).

    The reason it is a success is because the RCHS Staff, students and parents are committed to doing the best job they can - and by all accounts, doing a good job of it.

    As for "spoiled", one of my daughter's friends took a year off between HS and college to do public service in Africa - my daughter and many of her classmates tutor at local elementary schools.

    If WCPSS really cared about education, they would be dissecting RCHS to find out why - but it's easier to whine and protect the status quo.

  • gandalla Oct 29, 2009

    I dont understand why so many people are hating on Raleigh Academy. Its been nationally ranked we as north carolina residents should be proud of this. And as concerned citizens we should demand more of our public schools so they can shine in the same light as Raleigh Academy.
    The First Thing the NC Public School System needs to do is quit asking the parents if they can have their premission to hold a child back a year. If the student is performing to the level needed to be advancded then they need to be held back, period.

  • 1carpe Oct 29, 2009

    I am sure if my premis or my english is not correct it will be pointed out quickly. Somebody please correct me if I am wrong (and I am sure you will). Is not the real difference between Charter Schools, Private Schools, and our loosely referred to Public Education Schools, that the Private and Charter Schools are actually ALLOWED to demand and expect performance from the students? Charter and private schools do not socially promote, and are very politically incorrect because they (shudder) actually grade based on performance. Been a long lime for me or my son in school, but REQUIRING standards to be achieved has always helped the learning process a long.

  • MakoII Oct 29, 2009


    Blind studies in Chicago prove your point.

    Of poor students who WANTED to go to a better school, schools were chosen by lottery.

    Those that went to the better schools did better than the average kids at their old schools.

    But then again, so did the ones who WANTED to go, but lost the lottery.

    So the SCHOOL itself mattered LESS than the DESIRE for a better education amongst the parents and children.

    Spot On, Bubba! You Go, Bo'!

  • MakoII Oct 29, 2009


    And in THAT assessment, you would be exactly right. Recent studies show Charter School performance on average to be par with Public Schools.

    Seeing how the point of them was to be consistently BETTER means that they're a failure of their reason for being charted.

    But to ME, if they're "as good", where some are better, some are even, some are worse" but they offer an alternative style of education that may suit some students (like a project based approach) then I'm all for it.

    At least they're not WORSE on average.

    But let's not make the mistake that they're "better" on average when we hear the word "charter".

    A particular charter MAY be better for YOUR child, is all.

    I could today, create a school, with a random sampling of students, 15 to a class, nationally licensed teachers, and beat ALL other schools in terms of education. Private, Charter, Magnate AND Public.

    Licensing and Class size effect scoring more than most else in a random sampling.

  • bubbba Oct 29, 2009

    "So while the lottery may be true, the "riffraff" is weeded out prior to holding it. These are kids who were going to do well if they were in a Public or Charter so this is nothing but a fluff story meant to make WCPSS look bad. THANKS WRAL!"
    Your right about that. Kids that want to learn, will learn, and each one doesnt need a free laptop at his desk. Just the application process alone screens out some undereducated students. The parent obviously care enough about their kids to apply. I dont know how it is now but when my kids were little they went to year round and you had to apply to get in one. The year round school test scores were always better than traditional.