School Guide Magazine

Wake County Public Schools

Posted June 6, 2007 2:00 p.m. EDT

How do you provide a quality public education for a diverse and growing population, currently over 120,000 students, from grades K through 12? You start with a vision for accomplishing what seems impossible.

Wake County’s Public School System is turning that impossibility into reality, and doing it right. Forbes Magazine named WCPSS third in the United States on its’ Top Ten List for “The Best Education In The Biggest Cities.” Here are the ABC’s of how it is getting done:

The mission of WCPSS is “to educate each student to be a responsible and productive citizen who can effectively manage future challenges.” To do this, they have set one ambitious goal after another. The 5-year goal set in 1998 resulted in significant progress, and now they are in hot pursuit of 2003’s 5-year goal: “WCPSS is committed to academic excellence. By 2008, 95 percent of students in grades 3 through 12 will be at or above grade level as measured by the State of North Carolina End-of-Grade (NC EOG) or Course tests, and all student groups will demonstrate high growth.” This goal was drafted with input from educators, parents, community, and business leaders, and with this support, WCPSS will strive to reach it.

Research has shown that low-income students do best when they attend school along with middle-class classmates. Wake County has been pursuing the goal of economically balancing their schools since 2000, using a detailed formula to determine students’ school assignments. 50 magnet schools draw gifted students from the suburbs to the city, and inner-city students are bussed to the suburbs, to achieve this balance. The results are hard to dispute: overall, 91 percent of students in those grades scored at grade level in the spring, up from 79 percent 10 years ago.

Without a solid curriculum, you can’t have a solid education. But this is a community filled with doctors and other highly-educated professionals. Have no doubts, Wake County earned its’ rank because the schools measure up to demanding expectations, meeting or exceeding the state’s standards. “North Carolina first established a Standard Course of Study in 1898. The North Carolina Standard Course of Study provides every content area a set of competencies for each grade and high school course. Its intent is to ensure rigorous student academic performance standards that are uniform across the state. It is based on a philosophy of teaching and learning that is consistent with current research, exemplary practices, and national standards.”

Wake County’s ABC’s also include the Dedication and care of the staff and teachers, Excellence as a standard and a goal, and strong Family involvement. There are 7,452 teachers at 80 elementary schools, 27 middle schools, 16 high schools, and six special/alternative schools. 665 WCPSS teachers are certified by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, more than in any other NC School system. With a vision like this, all things are possible.