5 Charlotte-area high schools rate among nation’s best. What do they have in common? | Charlotte Observer

Lake Norman Charter School in Huntersville shot up in national rankings to reclaim the title of best high school in the Charlotte region for 2018 — at least as judged by U.S. News & World Report.

Five area schools — two charters, two in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and one in Union County Public Schools — made the magazine’s top 500 in the nation, based on state exam performance, graduation rates, and participation and performance on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests.

The ratings, released Wednesday, started with 20,500 public high schools and awarded gold medal status to the top 500. The Early College at Guilford, which placed 12th in the nation, had North Carolina’s best rating.

While the magazine says the ratings recognize plenty of schools with strong representation of black, Hispanic and low-income students — schools can’t even be considered for top ratings unless those groups score better than state averages — the local standouts are all located in the relatively affluent outskirts of Charlotte, where poverty levels are low and white students make up a majority.

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Lake Norman Charter had the region’s top ranking on the 2016 U.S. News list, but fell below Union County’s Marvin Ridge High in Waxhaw last year. This year Lake Norman was rated No. 163 in the country, up from from No. 325 in 2017.

According to Shannon Stein, superintendent, while compensation is important keeping teachers is about more than pay. Video by John D. Simmonsjsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Marvin Ridge fell from No. 275 to No. 369, making it second in the region.

Two CMS neighborhood schools in south Charlotte — Ardrey Kell (No. 384) and Providence (No. 436) — also earned gold medal status, as did Community School of Davidson, a north suburban charter school (No. 481).

Ardrey Kell, Providence and Lake Norman were also rated among the country’s best schools for STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math.

Marie G. Davis Military and Global Leadership Academy, Northwest School of the Arts and Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology, all in CMS, and Gaston County’s Highland School of Technology were rated among the best magnet schools. Lake Norman, Community School of Davidson and Lincoln Charter made the best charter school list.

Here’s the exchange that sparked claims that the CMS magnet plan has no educational value. Ann Doss Helms

Magnets, which are run by school districts, and charters, which are run by independent boards, both take students by application and often offer specialized academic themes.

A dozen other high schools in the region, including some that are racially and economically diverse, were among approximately 2,200 schools rated overall silver medal winners.

Find all results and more explanation at www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools.

Charter schools are one option in the growing "school choice" movement. Funded by taxpayer money, these schools are growing nationally, though some states have yet to pass related laws. Find out what sets them apart from traditional public and pri Nicole L. CvetnicMcClatchy

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms

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