Local News

Raleigh Charter ranked among nation's best high schools

Posted October 29, 2009 7:53 a.m. EDT

— 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, 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.