Monday, April 06, 2009

The Triangle Area Schools and Education

The Triangle Area Schools and Education
Probably one of the biggest perks of living in the Triangle is the educational opportunity the region affords. Beyond many excellent public school systems in the region, there are top-notch independent schools, cutting-edge research universities, and highly rated community colleges.

The Triangle’s unique layout features the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), North Carolina State University (NCSU), and Duke University as the cornerstones, feeding many of its graduates to careers in Research Triangle Park.

The web of knowledge is a large one around here, and we are lucky that we have so many options from which to choose in regard to where we send our children.

Public Schools
The public school systems in the Triangle are consistently ranked among the best in the state as far as end-of-grade test scores and college enrollment. The public systems in the Triangle include Wake County Public School System (WCPSS), Durham County Public Schools (DCPS), Orange County Public Schools (OCPS), Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public Schools (CCPS), and Johnston County Schools (JCS).

WCPSS is the largest public school system in North Carolina as of 2008, with 137,706 enrolled students in 159 schools. It is also the eighth largest district in the United States.

DCPS, the second largest school district in the Triangle and eighth largest in the state, consists of 46 schools. A public school system with two elementary Montessori schools, a health sciences academy, its own school of the arts, and many more offerings, DCPS is a leader in the state for its small high school options.
CCPS is an independent school system that continues to rank at the top of the school systems in the state in measures of student achievement. CCPS recently received a “Gold Ribbon” designation for being one of the nation’s top performing schools by Expansion Management magazine.

JCS is also a rapidly growing system and one that ranks in the top 20 percent of North Carolina school districts as far as test scores. In fact, JCS prides itself on its curriculum and unique programs that help each student achieve success.

“Johnston County Schools offers differentiated instruction, which means that every child’s learning style is addressed,” said Terri Sessoms, public information officer at Johnston County Schools. “Additionally, a Middle College was opened last year to provide an academic program for students wanting to earn their high school diplomas and matriculate to higher education without the extracurricular offerings of a traditional high school. Middle College is located at Johnston Community College, and it is administered by Johnston County Schools’ staff.”

Higher Education
The entities of NCSU, Duke, and the UNC are widely regarded as world-class educational and research institutions. UNC is the oldest public university in the United States, which NCSU is currently the largest public university in North Carolina. Duke, a private school in Durham, recently had its undergraduate program ranked by U.S. News & World Report as eighth best in the country behind the likes of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.

Other colleges and universities in the area include Campbell University, Central Carolina Community College, Durham Technical Community College, Johnston Community College, Meredith College, North Carolina Central University, Peace College, Shaw University, St. Augustine's College, and Wake Technical Community College.

Independent Schools
There are many independent schools that offer parents the opportunity to customize their child’s education by enrolling them in a school that matches their own values and beliefs. Independent schools, although obviously more costly than public schools, are also known for a higher teacher-student ratio and higher college acceptance rates.

The following are just a few of the independent schools in the Triangle.

Cresset Christian Academy
Cresset Christian Academy is a private, Christian, educational institution dedicated to the purpose of fostering students’ spiritual gifts and talents, developing academic skills necessary for college preparation, developing critical thinking skills in students, facilitating computer literacy, encouraging social and personal growth, and developing leadership skills and respect for authority.

“In my 30 years in education, I have not known a school as unique as Cresset,” said Gail Murphy, head administrator of Cresset Christian Academy in Durham. “We are small enough to provide a friendly, family atmosphere and individual attention yet have been able to provide all the benefits you would only expect to find in a very large school! Academically, we have AP & Honors classes and numerous electives. In sports, 85 percent of our upper school students play on at least one of our over 20 sports’ teams. In fine arts, we have strong programs including a yearly musical that is second to none. In the lower school, our students have many special classes including PE, art, choral and instrumental music, Spanish, library, and computer, as well as intramurals. We also have a ‘Wings’ program that includes therapy for students with learning difficulties as well as enrichment for advanced students. Bible study is the foundational part of our curriculum, and our weekly chapels are specifically geared to each of five different age groupings. We are a culturally diverse community dedicated to excellence in the training up of the next generation of Christian leaders.”

St. David’s School
St. David’s School, formerly known as St. Timothy’s-Hale School, enrolls students in kindergarten through grade 12. Founded in 1972 as Hale High School, the school graduated its first class in 1973. With the addition of the fifth grade in 1994, the school encompassed grades 5-12. In November 2002, the Board of Trustees voted to add grades K-4 for the fall 2003. In the spring of 2003, the school was renamed St. David's School and was expanded to include all grades on the same campus.

“St. David’s School is an Episcopal school, which offers students in grades K-12 a faith-based, yet academically rigorous curriculum which includes 17 AP courses, an honor code and student honor council, and a 100 percent college acceptance rate,” said Teresa Wilson, director of admissions for St. David’s, which is located in Raleigh. “Students in the Upper School also take courses on ‘The Bible and the Ancient World’ in the ninth grade and a senior seminar in the 12th grade. These courses allow students to explore where their core values and beliefs are contrary to the world at large, or in agreement with it and openly discuss this in the classroom. Our mission statement proclaims that St. David’s school ‘provides challenging opportunities to excel in the vital areas of faith, virtue and knowledge’ that, we believe, prepares our students for college and life.

“St. David’s School offers students small class sizes (St. David’s has a 1:7 faculty to student ratio in the high school), opportunities for independent studies, a senior trip to Greece, other curriculum supporting trips such as a trip to Washington, D.C., for eighth grade students, after they have completed a year’s study of U.S. History, weekly Chapel services, and more personal relationships with faculty and staff,” Wilson said. “Graduation requirements include 80 hours of community service, which makes students aware of the needs of their community.”

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