Types of Public Schools in North Carolina

Explanation of Types of Public Schools in North Carolina

Note: All of the school types below are public schools, in that they are funded primarily through public tax dollars.

  • Regular School: a public school that students are assigned to attend because they live in the school's attendance area or attendance zone. Such schools are sometimes called “zoned schools,” “neighborhood schools” or “ZIP code schools,” and are normally only open for enrollment to students from a predetermined set of neighborhoods or ZIP codes. Regular schools are by far the most common type of school in the Charlotte area.
  • Magnet School: a public school that provides unique or specialized curriculum. Magnet schools differ from regular public schools in that they offer specialized academic themes, such as math & science, the arts, foreign languages and so on. Magnet schools are usually open to students well outside of their immediate geographic location. Unlike charter schools, magnet schools are normally not completely independent, and receive their funding from the school system in the city or county in which they operate.
  • Alternative School: a school that serves students at any level, serves suspended or expelled students, serves students whose learning styles are better served in an alternative program, or a school that provides individualized programs outside of a standard classroom setting.
  • Charter School: a tuition-free, public school created on the basis of a license or “charter” made with the State Board of Education. Charter schools typically have greater freedom than traditional public schools in personnel policies, curriculum and teaching philosophy. In return, they must make a commitment to meet state standards of accountability. Charter schools are also normally open to students from counties and towns outside of where they are located. Enrollment decisions at charter schools are often lottery-based, with special consideration given to siblings of currently enrolled students.

Best School Districts in the Charlotte, NC Area

Best School Districts Around Charlotte, NC

Below is our ranking of the best public school systems in Charlotte and its North Carolina suburbs.

The rankings below are based on multiple measures of various Charlotte-area public school districts. Those measures include: end-of-grade test scores, end-of-course test scores, high school SAT scores and high school graduation rates of the districts. Reading and math end-of-grade test score percentages were included below for the sake of providing our site visitors with a simple snapshot of two key district indicators. However, please keep in mind that other measures were used in creating these rankings – i.e., SAT scores, graduation rates and end-of-course scores.

Please note that charter schools are not part of public county or city school districts, and normally draw students from multiple counties. Each charter school is independently run. In the rating below we've mixed the charter schools into a composite "system" for the sake of comparison of these schools with traditional school systems. However, one should keep in mind that each charter school is run independently and the educational outcomes can vary greatly from one charter school to the next.

Rank School System Location Grades 3-8: % at or Above Grade Level
Reading Math
1 Mooresville City Schools Iredell County, NC 84% 93%
2 Union County Public Schools Union County, NC 82% 91%
3 Charter Schools (no school system) Various Counties 77% 87%
4 Lincoln County Schools Lincoln County, NC 77% 88%
5 Catawba County Schools Catawba County, NC 75% 87%
6 Iredell-Statesville Schools Iredell County, NC 74% 84%
7 Newton Conover City Schools Catawba County, NC 72% 87%
8 Cabarrus County Schools Cabarrus County, NC 74% 84%
9 Stanly County Schools Stanly County, NC 75% 87%
10 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Mecklenburg County, NC 71% 83%
11 Hickory City Schools Catawba County, NC 71% 81%
12 Gaston County Schools Gaston County, NC 69% 80%
13 Rowan-Salisbury Schools Rowan County, NC 63% 75%
14 Kannapolis City Schools Cabarrus County, NC 64% 80%



Greater Charlotte Metro Area
Best Elementary Schools
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Best Charter Schools
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Popular Charlotte Suburbs
Belmont Schools
Concord Schools
Cornelius Schools
Davidson Schools
Denver Schools
Harrisburg Schools
Huntersville Schools
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Matthews Schools
Mint Hill Schools
Mooresville Schools
Statesville Schools
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