Educators in North Carolina recently received the disappointing news that the Read To Achieve program, which was launched in 2012 aimed at getting more young children to read, had not yielded positive results. In fact, proficiency scores were worse in 2019 than in 2011 before the program had begun. 

However, despite the overall decline in test scores, there are a number of high-performing school districts in North Carolina that have steadily improved in this time period. Let’s take a look at the five best school districts in North Carolina.

Mooresville Graded School District is the best school district in North Carolina. The district encompasses three elementary schools, two intermediate schools, one middle school, and one high school with a total enrollment of 6,100. MGSD is one of the best districts in the state for academics, ranking in the top ten in ten North Carolina School Report Card subject areas, and its athletics program is first-class, as well. 

Earning the #2 spot in North Carolina is Orange County Schools, a district headquartered in Hillsborough and consisting of 13 schools. The ethnically-diverse school district boasts a graduation rate well above the state and national averages. 

3rd place belongs to Haywood County Schools, a large accredited district of fifteen schools serving 7,124 students. HCS has many achievements to its name, including a high average ACT score and National Blue Ribbon School honors for Haywood Early College High School. 

The 4th best school district in North Carolina is Dare County Schools, comprising 11 schools with a total enrollment near 5,000. With all schools meeting or exceeding growth each year and the district managing a 95% graduation rate, DCS outperforms state standards in every metric.  

Rounding out North Carolina’s top five school districts is Watauga County Schools, which is headquartered in Boone and consists of nine schools. WCS is a state leader in innovation, with its high school being the first in the state to offer a 1:1 laptop program to its students. 

Top School Districts in North Carolina, 2020

RankSchool DistrictCity
1Mooresville Graded School DistrictMooresville
2Orange County SchoolsHillsborough
3Haywood County SchoolsWaynesville
4Dare County SchoolsNags Head
5Watauga County SchoolsBoone
6Davie County SchoolsMocksville
7Granville County SchoolsOxford
8Asheville City SchoolsAsheville
9Yadkin County SchoolsYadkinville
10Stokes County SchoolsDanbury
11Newton Conover City SchoolsNewton
12Alexander County SchoolsTaylorsville
13Macon County SchoolsFranklin
14Currituck County SchoolsCurrituck
15Beaufort County SchoolsWashington
16Mcdowell County SchoolsMarion
17Ashe County SchoolsJefferson
18Richmond County SchoolsHamlet
19Columbus County SchoolsWhiteville
20Asheboro City SchoolsAsheboro
21Cherokee County SchoolsMurphy
22Polk County SchoolsColumbus
23Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public SchoolsElizabeth City
24Avery County SchoolsNewland
25Hickory City SchoolsHickory
26Elkin City SchoolsElkin
27Montgomery County SchoolsTroy
28Scotland County SchoolsLaurinburg
29Jones County SchoolsTrenton
30Transylvania County SchoolsBrevard
31Yancey County SchoolsBurnsville
32Vance County SchoolsHenderson
33Jackson County Public SchoolsSylva
34Kannapolis City SchoolsKannapolis
35Bladen County SchoolsElizabethtown
36Camden County SchoolsCamden
37Perquimans County SchoolsHertford
38Madison County SchoolsMarshall
39Clinton City SchoolsClinton
40Person County SchoolsRoxboro
41Greene County SchoolsSnow Hill
42Whiteville City SchoolsWhiteville
43Edgecombe County Public SchoolsTarboro
44Mitchell County SchoolsBakersville
45Mount Airy City SchoolsMount Airy
46Bertie County SchoolsWindsor
47Roanoke Rapids City SchoolsRoanoke Rapids
48Pamlico County SchoolsBayboro
49Swain County SchoolsBryson City
50Graham County SchoolsRobbinsville
51Edenton-Chowan SchoolsEdenton
52Gates County SchoolsGatesville
53Hyde County SchoolsSwan Quarter
54Anson County SchoolsWadesboro
55Alleghany County SchoolsSparta
56Lexington City SchoolsLexington
57Clay County SchoolsHayesville
58Martin County SchoolsWilliamston
59Hertford County SchoolsWinton
60Tyrrell County SchoolsColumbia
61Caswell County SchoolsYanceyville
62Washington County SchoolsPlymouth
63Weldon City SchoolsWeldon
64Warren County SchoolsWarrenton
65Thomasville City SchoolsThomasville
66Halifax County SchoolsHalifax
67Northampton County SchoolsJackson


The following variables contributed to the ranking: number of students (K-12), graduation rate, school funding per student, student to teacher ratio, percent of students scoring above proficient in standardized state Math test, percent of students scoring above proficient in standardized state Reading and Language test. Data from a total of 10,247 public school districts were used to compute a score for each school district. The following states were omitted due to lack of sufficient data: Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Utah, and Virginia. Note that high schools in some states have their own independent districts.

Did your district make the list? Share the good news!

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