North Carolina Public Schools

Inspiring | Achieving | Leading
for a Better North Carolina

Chapter 1.

Celebrating North Carolina Public Schools

Prior to the publication of the 1983 landmark report “A Nation at Risk” that called for sweeping reforms to public education and teacher education, the word “accountability” was rarely heard in education circles. Since then, the media and political focus on public education – and the number of critics – has increased despite the great strides made in public education, which continues to experience more success than at any time in history.

It would seem that it should be enough that public schools across the state and nation are more successful than ever. They are achieving the mandate of educating the masses; however, they are no longer measured alone by the communities in which they serve. Public schools are challenged with preparing students to compete on a global stage, and the result is a deluge of information and comparisons, leaving the average citizen confounded as he or she tries to determine the local school’s success amidst a plethora of negative rhetoric.

The real success stories from public schools across North Carolina must be told or the voice of the detractors will be the only voice that is heard – and believed!

That is why it is time for public schools in North Carolina to step up in a concerted effort and tell their stories – how their teachers and schools are changing lives; how traditional public schools are enjoying great success in preparing students for the future; why public schools are foundational to the future of local communities and the state as a whole. Collectively, K-12 education leaders, personnel and supporters must urge all sectors of the public to “Support Public Schools,” and this call to action must begin a groundswell of support and respect for public education that resonates with parents, business leaders, media, and elected officials at local, state and national levels of service. Desired outcomes include:

  1. Creating an understanding of how public education supports the financial health and well-being of North Carolina and its local communities,
  2. Defeating the myth that “public schools are broken,” and
  3. Instilling the conviction that traditional public schools are an outstanding resource for North Carolina students and families.

Process

To achieve these important goals and truly begin enhancing support and respect for public schools, the North Carolina Association of School Administrators, in collaboration with the North Carolina School Public Relations Association, has launched an initiative to improve the perception of public schools to ensure that they remain strong and viable not only for the students they serve today but also for those they will educate in the future. This will require a two-pronged effort at state and local levels to increase public support of district-led public schools to provide for the following:

  1. Continued enrollment in traditional public schools even as new and expanded choice options in the private sector and elsewhere are extended,
  2. Implementation of policies and laws which reflect goals and procedures that public school leaders support as enhancements of their ability to deliver the highest-quality educational services to all students, and
  3. Provision of adequate resources to ensure that each traditional public school classroom has a qualified, caring, fully-certified teacher to provide all students with a rigorous and rewarding instructional experience; that each school is led by a visionary and effective principal and support team; and that all schools have the textbooks, supplies, digital resources and other tools they need to effectively prepare each student for success as they move from one grade level to the next and on to college, careers and life success.

Elements

Brand/Logo

“North Carolina Public Schools: Every Child’s Chance… Every Community’s Future” conveys a big message in a few words and reflects the perspective that all sectors of the public should hold of the state’s district-led schools. When paired with a graphic depiction of the sun nurturing a young plant that is growing, the imagery portrays the right perception that North Carolina public schools are open to any and all; they serve both the most profoundly disabled student and the most gifted child; and the future and well-being of communities across the state is dependent upon ongoing delivery of a free and quality public education.

Website

A new website, www.everychildschancenc.org, has been launched as an offshoot of the North Carolina Association of School Administrators’ www.ncasa.net to host a vast array of resources – including articles, data, charts, graphs, photos and videos – that highlight the successes of North Carolina public schools and summarize the challenges they must overcome to remain viable and vibrant for providing every child a chance and e very community a future for the next generations to come.

175th Anniversary Celebration

On January 8, 1839, the N.C. General Assembly passed the first common school law establishing the principle of combined state and local funding for public schools. The law also divided the state into school districts with primary schools in each. Five to ten “superintendents” were appointed to oversee these district schools, and local boards of education were initiated. Just one year later, on January 20, 1840, the first public school in North Carolina opened in the Williamsburg Community of Rockingham County. In 2015, 175 years after the first public school in the state opened its doors, a major celebration will mark the tremendous milestone that has been reached and a course for ensuring future success in North Carolina public schools will be charted. The celebration will feature videos, including a series of famous North Carolina high school graduates from all walks of life; distribution of the executive summary of a commemorative online publication; recognition of teachers who have taught 50 years or more; as well as remarks from key supporters about North Carolina public schools’ 175 years of accomplishments. In addition, each school district will be asked to host a district activity on the same day, and each will receive a tree or seedling for planting in the spring to commemorate the 175th anniversary in communities across the state.

North Carolina's First Public School

The Garrett Academy, now Williamsburg Elementary School, has undergone a number of significant changes over the years. Learn more about Rockingham County Schools our state’s first public school.

82% of North Carolina students attend traditional public schools. There are 1.7 million K-12 students in North Carolina.

The celebration is only the beginning of a concerted effort by school district leaders statewide and more than 45 partnering organizations that pledge support for North Carolina public schools to work together to raise visibility of the successes being achieved daily in classrooms across the state. More importantly, a collective call for increased support of traditional public schools will begin to resonate from the mountains to the coast and lay the foundation to ensure that the state’s public schools remain vibrant to inspire, lead and achieve on an ongoing basis.

The North Carolina Association of School Administrators and the North Carolina School Public Relations Association believe that the successful rollout and completion of these initiatives are worthwhile, necessary and crucial to help urge “support for strong public schools” at a critical time in North Carolina’s history. Helping all sectors of the public value North Carolina’s public schools as “every child’s chance and every community’s future” will ensure they remain viable as a foundational component of the state and local economy beyond their current 175 years of success and that they are a resource worth celebrating.

Join the effort to celebrate and support North Carolina’s public schools!

Student work

Chapter 2.

Changing with the Times

On January 8, 1839, the N.C. General Assembly passed the first common school law establishing the principle of combined state and local funding for public schools. The law also divided the state into school districts with primary schools in each. Five to ten “superintendents” were appointed to oversee these district schools, and local boards of education were initiated. Just one year later, on January 20, 1840, the first public school in North Carolina opened in the Williamsburg Community of Rockingham County. From that storied beginning 175 years ago, North Carolina public schools have undergone continuous renovation to adapt to the ch-

anging needs of the students and to mesh with the state’s economy that has transitioned from agriculture to manufacturing to high-tech. In each phase of these ever-changing times, district-led public schools in the state have remained as the constant and reliable resource that is providing every child a chance and every community a future. Take a trip down memory lane with this interactive timeline and view the faces and successes of North Carolina’s public schools and view the video clips and other multimedia resources for a look ahead to what lies in store as these schools continue to inspire, lead and achieve for generations to come.

1776 North Carolina State Constitution requires a school or schools to be established by the Legislature for the convenient instruction of youth, with such salaries to the Masters paid by the public. This established UNC-CH.
1825 General Assembly establishes a Literary Fund to support public education and a Literary Board to oversee the fund. This board was the first governing body for public education in North Carolina.
1840 First public school opens in the Williamsburg Community of Rockingham County.
1839 General Assembly enacts the state’s first public school law
Early - Mid 1800s Various communities begin opening “subscription schools” which are small one-room schoolhouses that parents pay a fee for their children to attend.
1846 Every county in North Carolina has at least one public school.
1852 General Assembly creates the Office of General Superintendent of Common Schools
1853 Calvin H. Wiley appointed the first General Superintendent of Common Schools, serving until 1865
April 12, 1861 — April 9, 1865 Civil War. Throughout the Civil War years the public school system of North Carolina deteriorates and the Literary Fund is wiped out. The office of the Superintendent of Common Schools is abolished as well as the office of the Treasurer of the Literary Fund.
1866 — 1867 Local Boards of Education established. General Assembly allows towns to establish tax supported public school systems, and provides for local trustees and local boards of education.
1868 Framed in accordance with the Reconstruction Acts after The Civil War, the second State Constitution clarifies N.C.’s stand that all children be provided a free education. It also establishes the first official State Board of Education and the elected Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
1870 Greensboro Graded Schools become the first graded schools system (where education and skill set are divided into levels, or grades) in the state.
1875 A state constitutional amendment establishes legal segregation and the creation of "separate but equal" schools for white and black children.
1892 First two brick school houses are built for black students. Both school houses were located in Guilford County.
1901 General Assembly makes direct appropriation of tax funds to public schools for the first time in state history.
1907 Asheville City Schools becomes the first school system in the state to finance public kindergarten.
1911 General Assembly authorizes use of state funded buses to transport children to and from public schools.
1910 General Assembly begins to fund elementary schools for black children.
1913 Compulsory Attendance Act is passed which requires all children between the age of 8 and 12 to attend school at least four months of the year
1919 The Constitution is amended to increase the mandated school term from four months to six months. At this time the State Board of Examiners is established as an agent of the State Board of Education to be responsible for the certification of all teachers.
1917 Pamlico County is the first in the state to purchase a "school truck" for the purpose of transporting children to and from public schools.
1918 First high school for black students is established.
1942 12th grade added to public high schools.
1931 General Assembly enacts the School Machinery Act. This statute transfers financial support and control of public schools from the counties to the states, establishes a new sales tax as the source of funding, and designates counties as the basic governmental unit responsible for building and maintaining public school facilities and providing additional funds for specific programs and improvements. At this time the State assumes the cost of textbooks, school supplies, and other necessities.
1943 School lunches are introduced. The school term is lengthened to nine months per year.
1946 Compulsory Attendance age is raised to 16 years old.
1947 The General Assembly passes Chapter 818 of the Public School Laws, which founded statewide programs for special education in North Carolina.
1952 First Drivers Ed. Class in North Carolina
1957 The first integrated schools in North Carolina began operating in Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Greensboro.
1954 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated schools are unconstitutional and must be integrated.
1969-1971 A Mecklenburg County court orders, with the U.S. Supreme Court affirming, local school systems to use "any and all known ways of desegregation, including busing." Mecklenburg County Judge James B. McMillan determined that the racial proportion of each school should be equal to that of the entire district, which was 71 percent white and 29 percent black.
1974 The federal government passes the Education of All Handicapped Children Act, which changed the way North Carolina and all other states serve exceptional students.
1977 Kindergarten is established statewide for all 5-year-olds.
1962 Governor Terry Sanford embarks on an Education Tour to promote integration in public schools.
1985 The General Assembly directs the State Board of Education to adopt a Basic Education Program with the intent of providing every student equal access to instruction in the arts, communication skills, physical education and personal health and safety, mathematics, media and computer skills, science, second languages, social studies, and vocational and technical education. However, the program was never fully funded nor implemented as designed.
1989 The General Assembly enacts the School Improvement and Accountability Act, which was designed to give local school systems more flexibility in making decisions in exchange for greater accountability, and included local plans for school improvement, waivers from state laws and policies, a report card for local school systems to ensure accountability, and a differentiated pay provision.
1995 The General Assembly enacts the ABCs of Public Education, which focuses on strong accountability with an emphasis on high educational standards; teaching the basics; and local control. It establishes an accountability model setting growth and performance standards for all public schools in the state
2001 Guilford County Schools open the first middle college high school programs in the state at Guilford Technical Community College and Greensboro College.
1997 In the Leandro litigation, the State Supreme Court rules that every child is constitutionally guaranteed an opportunity for a sound, basic education in public schools, alleging that inadequate state funding in poorer school districts denies students the same quality education provided to children in wealthier counties.
2001 N.C. public schools fall subject to the federal “No Child Left Behind” law mandating increased accountability for achieving with all subgroups of students.
2003 The General Assembly initiates high school reform with the Innovative Education Initiatives Act, which aimed to reduce the high school dropout rate, increase high school and college graduation rates, decrease the need for remediation in institutions of higher education, and raise certificate, associate, and bachelor degree completion rates.
2007 North Carolina joins the nationwide online education movement with the State Board of Education’s launch of the North Carolina Virtual Public School.
2012 The state’s graduation rate reaches a record high of 80.2%.
2015 North Carolina public schools celebrate 175 years of success!
2013 The state’s graduation rate reaches a new high of 82.5%.
2014 The state’s graduation rate reaches an all-time high of 83.9%.
Chapter 3.

Every Child's Chance

Causby and Flood 70s
Causby and Flood 70s
Johnston County Schools
Johnston County Schools
Forestview Elementary School Diversity Map
Forestview Elementary School Diversity Map
Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools Weeksville ElemSchool 1965
Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools Weeksville ElemSchool 1965
Rockingham County Schools
Rockingham County Schools
Elizabeth City Pasquotank Public Schools Class of 1969 ECHS
Elizabeth City Pasquotank Public Schools Class of 1969 ECHS
Franklin County Schools
Franklin County Schools
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From their storied beginning 175 years ago in the Williamsburg Community of Rockingham County, North Carolina public schools have served a singular mission: to provide a chance for success to every child who walks through their doors and thereby provide every community with a viable future.

In their beginning, North Carolina public schools were like all schools around the nation – separate but not equal and reflecting the racial divide that needed to be bridged to ensure a brighter path for students of all races and diverse backgrounds to learn together in combined classrooms. But even those separate schools played an important role in defining North Carolina’s sense of community, as evidenced by the Rosenwald Schools, and helping the state and all its subsets overcome segregation and move forward with integration that remains an important hallmark of public education even today.

As North Carolina public schools celebrate their 175th-year milestone in 2015, time for reflection on that historic movement to ensure public schools are free and open to all students – no matter their socioeconomic status, skin color, religion, or native language – is an important tribute to the progress made in public schools and to the miles yet to go to continue improving educational services for every child.

Delve into the rich fabric of diversity that defines North Carolina public schools today, and join in the effort to celebrate and support these schools as every child’s chance and every community’s future!

Chapter 4.

College, Career and Future Ready

Duplin County Schools
Duplin County Schools
City of Medicine Academy
City of Medicine Academy
Watauga County Schools
Watauga County Schools
Burke County Schools
Burke County Schools
Duplin County Schools
Duplin County Schools
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In 2015 a simple Google search yields more than 150,000 hits for “America’s Schools Are Failing,” yet when you Google “America’s Schools Are Succeeding,” fewer than five entries are identified. That national snapshot of the public’s perception of traditional public schools is troubling, both in its reach and in its inaccuracy.

This flawed national perspective is also distorting the viewpoint of how well North Carolina’s traditional public schools are performing in their efforts to educate almost 1.6 million students currently enrolled.

In reality, our traditional public schools have undergone continuous renovation to meet the ever-changing needs of society. They are continuing to evolve to stay ahead ofchange and anticipate what today’s students will need as adults, since 60 percent of all jobs in the United States require education beyond high school. So they are focusing their efforts to prepare students for life after graduation, when they will encounter college, careers, citizenship and the uncharted challenges of their future.

North Carolina public schools in the 2014-2015 school year are educating 1.52 million students in 115 school districts in 2,526 traditional public schools and are projected to add roughly 9,000 more students next year.

Today North Carolina’s public schools educate almost 90 percent of the state’s school-aged students, even though a school-choice climate is thriving through the recent expansion of publicly funded charter schools and private school vouchers. A closer look at the hallmarks of district-led school success stories reveals that, while they still are in transition to meet even higher levels of achievement, the vast majority of North Carolina public schools are indeed preparing graduates who are college, career and future ready.

Chapter 5.

Driving Vibrant Communities

Robeson County Indian Heritage Celebration
Robeson County Indian Heritage Celebration
Rockingham County Fire Academy
Rockingham County Fire Academy
Vance County Schools
Vance County Schools
Elkin City Schools
Elkin City Schools
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Even before state support for public schools began in 1840, their link to the vitality of local communities in North Carolina has been a constant. In fact, the genesis of most early schools in the state can be traced directly to community leaders’ recognition of the need for and value of an educated citizenry that in turn generated the skills and tradesmen that allowed the state’s diverse towns and cities to grow and flourish.

When most people think of schools, they think of students in a classroom; few consider and appreciate the complexity of schools and the array of services they provide to students and the community.  In virtually every district, schools are the largest provider of meals to the largest number of people. In most districts, schools also run the largest transportation program, the largest counseling service and the largest recreation program in their local community.

Last, but not least, most school districts are the largest employers in their communities. In 64 of the state’s 115 school systems, public schools now rank as the largest employer in their home county; in another 24 counties, public schools rank as the second largest employer. Throughout the changing times of North Carolina’s economy, the strong link between public schools and community vitality has continued.  In fact, local public schools long have been a hallmark of community identity.

Public schools in North Carolina are not only a rich part of the historic fabric that makes up communities from the mountains to the coast, they are ever-changing to help drive a vibrant future for those same cities and towns, while seeking to offer every child a chance to succeed.

Chapter 6.

Public School Success

The tried and true tradition of public schools in North Carolina, as well as the multitude of successes they have achieved during their 175-year history, is worthy of celebration during their major anniversary year in 2015. However, pausing to reflect on the contributions public schools have made to the state and its citizens is only a beginning step. Our public schools must be valued and supported from all sectors of the public if they are to continue to flourish and provide the excellent educational opportunities that will be needed by North Carolina’s young people of tomorrow.

That’s why it’s time for public schools in North Carolina to join together and tell their stories. Collectively, K-12 education leaders, personnel and supporters must issue an urgent and time-sensitive CALL TO ACTION TO SUPPORT PUBLIC SCHOOLS. This call to action must begin a groundswell of support and respect for public education that resonates with parents, business leaders, media, and elected officials at local, state and national levels of service.

If North Carolina public schools are to continue their trajectory of increasing success, then they, in collaboration with all who believe in their value, Must work together to accomplish the following: 

  1. Create an understanding of how public education supports the financial health and well-being of North Carolina and its local communities,
  2. Defeat the myth that “public schools are broken,” and
  3. Instill the conviction that traditional public schools are an outstanding resource for North Carolina students and families.

No single individual or organization can reach these important goals alone. North Carolina public schools got their start 175 years ago through community support, and they need that same uplifting in every community of the state today in order to remain viable to focus on their mission of educating students and preparing them to lead in all walks of life.

Get Involved and Make a Difference for Strong Public Schools in North Carolina!