Top Public High Schools

Our exclusive ranking of all the area public high schools




After the unveiling of our exclusive public schools ranking last year, our staff agreed that we would tackle the enormous task once again in our October issue. Like last year, our goal in compiling our exclusive annual ranking of the best public high schools in the Charlotte area was to identify academically successful schools, but also the schools that provide an environment conducive to exceptional learning. We wanted to make this ranking based solely on the data provided by each school, the school districts, and the North Carolina Department of Education. So to achieve this, we again enlisted statistician Zhi Zhang, a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at UNC-Charlotte, to help analyze the data and prepare the ranking.

It’s important to remember that differences among schools on the list are often quite small—any school could fairly exchange places with schools one or two positions higher or lower. Therefore, we offer these rankings not as the final word on school quality, but rather as a starting point for parents, students, and educators.

Not all high schools in this ranking are traditional high schools. We included these schools because we’d be remiss in leaving them off simply because they offer different curricula. All the schools were ranked against one another based on the same data that was available from each school. The ranking is based on a like comparison.

Top Public High Schools
Click image to view the rankings in a PDF.

How We Prepared the Ranking

The overall ranking is based on two separate rankings: environment and performance. The environment factor includes variables such as proportion of students enrolled in Advanced Placement classes, average class size, proportion of fully licensed teachers, and proportion of board-certified teachers. The performance factor includes variables such as average combined SAT score and four-year graduation rate. Schools with missing data on any of the variables were deleted from the analysis.

Two sets of variables were determined: the variables for the environment factor and the variables for the performance factor. For each variable of each set, we organized a separate ranking of all schools, with the smallest value in the ranking being the top- ranked school and the largest value being the bottom-ranked school. If there was a tie in the ranking, each of the tied schools shared the lowest rank value of that tier. Collectively, these rank scores formed a basis for our analysis. There are several options in establishing scores for ranking purposes. We chose to rank scores because they tend to be more robust — if a school has an extremely low or high reading on a variable, the extremity would not dominate the school’s position in the overall ranking.

For the environment factor, we calculated the average of the rank scores on all variables in that set for each school. Then we repeated the process for the performance factor, calculating the average of the rank scores on all variables in that set for each school.

For each school, a weighted average of the two rank scores, one from the environment ranking and one from the performance ranking, was calculated with a weight of 0.25 on the environment and 0.75 on the performance. The overall ranking was then per- formed based on the weighted average rank scores among all schools. Schools in a tied tier share the lowest rank value in that tier.

Our primary sources for data are listed below. In cases where information was not available for a particular school, we contacted the school at least twice to gather the data. Some schools did not return our phone calls.

Percent graduation rate for all public schools: ayp.ncpublicschools.org

SAT reports for all N.C. public schools: ncpublicschools.org/accountability/ report ing/sat/2009

Enrollment, percent enrollment in Advanced Placement courses, and all teacher data: ncreportcards.org/src

The North Carolina Department of Education’s process for calculating cohort graduation rate: dpi.state.nc.us/newsroom/ facts/measurements/graduationrate

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