How are wake county schools in 2021


“How are the schools?” and education quality in general are among the most frequently asked questions we get from homebuyers. Here’s what you need to know about Wake County public schools in 2021.

Questions about schools and education quality are among the most frequently asked about topics we get from homebuyers and relocators as they narrow down their home search. Because our Wake County area continues to expand—steadily—the details about schools in the county change often.

Fortunately, one thing that doesn’t change is the overall quality of the schools, and the success graduates have when they walk out of their high school doors!

Here are some of the key details you need to know about Wake County Schools in 2021—and where to go to find additional information as you hone in on specific areas within this giant district.

School District Stats

  • 15th largest in the United States; and the largest district in NC.
  • 161,907 students—3x the size it was in 1980 (the overall county population has nearly quadrupled in that time).
  • 191 schools (and counting!).
  • 3rd largest employer, with roughly 17,000 staff.

Why is Wake County School District so large?

Many people moving here are amazed at the size of the district: 857 square miles. While it’s size is an ongoing debate, and as recently as 2017 the question was reviewed by the NC Legislature, one factor in its favor is that more of the budget can be invested directly in student services. (For instance, less of the budget goes towards having multiple superintendents and separate boards of education.)

Fortunately, studies—and the district track record—indicate that the size of an individual student’s school has more of an impact on success than the size of the district. And one of the reasons that new schools, and renovations or expansion, are always underway is to ensure the district keeps pace with development and population growth.

How good is the education at Wake County Schools?

The district has long had a good track record, and in recent years that just keeps getting better. There’s been a steady improvement in high school graduation numbers from 86.1% in 2015 to 90.8% in 2020.

There are many ways to look at educational success of course. For many parents, college attendance is an important one, and Wake County leads the way on this front too, with  70% of graduates going to college (compared to 64% in NC overall)—49% to a 4-year college. SAT scores offer another positive view, with Wake students averaging 1130, vs the U.S. average of 1044.

What options are there for school assignment?

If you have a neighborhood in mind, you can check the school assignment with your realtor, or enter your address in the school directory lookup. Looking up their stats is always a good idea. You’ll also want to consider the pros and cons of Year-Round (essentially 4 quarters, with roughly 3-week breaks between each), vs Traditional (2 semesters with a longer Christmas break and full-length summer vacation), for your family.

While every area has one or more school assignments for elementary, middle and high school—and looking at stats by school is an important consideration—families do have a few other options when it comes to public schools:

  • There are 24 Charter Schools with different areas of focus, from STEM to language and more. They each have their own curriculum, and are run more like a private school. (Competition is high for these, generally by raffle.)
  • Magnet Schools follow the Core Curriculum, but lay a particular focus on top of that. For instance, Combs Elementary is a leadership school using Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. East Cary Middle School is a Center for World Languages and Global Studies Athens Drive High School is a Center for Medical Sciences and Global Health Initiative.
  • Virtual Academy which became a major option during the COVID pandemic, is continuing for the 21-22 school year. Families must commit to a full year in the virtual environment. (If vaccines for children become available, this commitment may be reduced to one semester.)

Growth being what it is, there are always multiple projects underway, from brand new schools to renovations. With so much going for it, and so much always in flux, working closely with your real estate agent can really help you navigate the options and keep your top priorities in mind! That’s what our team is here for—so just give us a call!

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