Innovation and Excellence in Education


education photoEVERY CHILD. EVERY DAY. FOR A BETTER TOMORROW. The Charlotte community is proud of what Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) offers, and the district’s slogan matches its vision. CMS provides a strong foundation in the basics — reading, writing and mathematics — and much, much more to prepare students to be globally competitive.

Nationally recognized for combining academic rigor with rich opportunities in the arts and humanities, CMS has the resources and the expertise to focus on the unique needs of each student. CMS offers a world of choices, including classical studies, culinary arts, information technology and the highly acclaimed International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement diploma programs.

Quality and Growth
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg community treats education as its most precious resource, and the board of education is dedicated to ensuring that CMS provides “all students the best education available anywhere, preparing every child to lead a rich and productive life.”

CMS is recognized nationally for academic excellence. CMS won the 2011 Broad Prize, which is presented annually to four school districts in the country for elevating their achievement levels. As a winner, the district received $250,000 in scholarships. CMS was a finalist for the Broad Prize in 2004 and 2010.

CMS recently renewed its district accreditation from AdvanceEd, the world’s largest education network. CMS was the first large urban district in N.C. and in the country to earn accreditation more than a decade ago.

CMS serves 141,171 students in pre-K through 12th grade. As the 18th-largest district in the country, CMS has 159 schools and more than 18,000 employees. CMS is big, but its national reputation comes from the outstanding education provided to each student in the district. CMS realizes that what works for one student may not work for another.

CMS class size conforms to state requirements. The Equity Plus program in CMS lowers class sizes in schools with higher percentages of students living in poverty. Download a CMS Fast facts PDF.

education photoTop Quality Employees
CMS employs more than 9,200 full-time teachers, 6,429 student support staff and approximately 995 administrative staff. More than 3,500 of the district’s certified teachers have advanced degrees.

CMS ranks fourth nationwide and second among school districts in N.C. for newly certified National Board teachers.  For the 2012-2013 school year, 1,237 CMS teachers were National Board certified. Equivalent to the CPA exam for accountants or the bar exam for lawyers, the National Board certification documents a teacher’s skills. 

Superior Student Achievement
CMS sets high expectations for students and challenges them to reach their fullest potential. Thus, academic rigor and access to challenging courses are top priorities. In 2013, five CMS high schools were ranked among America’s top 1,000 high schools surveyed by Newsweek Magazine.

Enrollment in AP courses increased from 4,079 students in 1995-96 to  12,349 in 2011-12. As a result of the district’s commitment to academic excellence, CMS was selected as one of 28 school systems across the country to award the first AP diplomas. CMS has increased the number of exams taken from 2,200 in 1995-96 to 8,414 in 2011-12. Of the  126 IB Diploma candidates,  56students earned the IB Diploma in 2011-2012.


Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)
Critical Reading

Above Average SAT Scores
In CMS, 67.5 percent of eligible students took the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) in 2012, compared to 52 percent nationally. National and state SAT scores are a composite of both public and non-public schools. Mecklenburg’s results compare favorably with both state and national scores.

In 2012,  8,941students graduated from the 28 Charlotte-Mecklenburg high schools. Last school year, CMS graduates earned more than $96 million in academic and athletic scholarships.

Exceptional Magnet Programs
Magnet schools offer students an opportunity to focus on a particular theme or curriculum while receiving the N.C. Standard Course of Study. Today, 37 schools offer specialized magnet programs ranging from visual and performing arts to math, science and technology, Montessori, and language immersion. Magnet Schools of America awarded honors to 20 of those programs in 2013, naming 10 schools of excellence and the other 10 schools of distinction. CMS’s nationally recognized magnet schools serve more than 16,000 students in nine different programs.

Classrooms on the Cutting Edge
As a result of business and community support, technology is a strong focus in all CMS schools. An example of this dedication to technology includes the Computer Access to Neighborhoods Program located within the community at various school sites.

Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology  is the district’s magnet technology high school, offering students an array of upper level technology courses necessary for certification exams. Officials at the school collaborate with business professionals and higher education institutions to ensure they concentrate on current and future high demand IT career areas.

education photoA Model Pre-K Program
Bright Beginnings, a program for four-year-olds, is recognized nationally and serves as a model for similar programs throughout the state and country. Developed in 1996, this literacy-based program helps students enter kindergarten ready and eager to learn. Currently, more than 2,600 four-year-olds are enrolled in this program.

Committed to Meeting Special Needs
The goal of CMS is to provide educational opportunities that encourage, challenge and motivate all students. In programs for exceptional children, students with disabilities are encouraged to develop and flourish through individualized instruction in the least restrictive environment. Programs are available throughout Mecklenburg County and are determined by addressing each student’s needs through Individual Education Programs.

A Multitude of Programs and Services
CMS offers a broad range of services and programs to enhance the district’s educational opportunities. The English as a Second Language program offers assistance to students whose native language is not English. More than 14,000 CMS students have been identified as limited English proficient – 169 native languages are spoken, and nearly 157 countries are represented.

The After School Enrichment Program provides a caring and nurturing environment for students beyond the regular classroom day at every CMS elementary and at select middle schools. The program focuses on exciting activities such as sports, arts, computer exploration, music, dance, drama, clubs and much more. The program is supported by weekly fees paid by parents and operates on school holidays as well as during winter and spring break. Before-school care is available in many of these schools.

Effective Business Partnerships
CMS is fortunate to have many business and community partners who provide resources and volunteer support to schools.  More than 90,000 volunteers have  contributed thousands of volunteer hours  in CMS. More than 1,000 business partners provide assistance to the schools through upwards of $17 million in school-business partnerships.

Superior Transportation
North Carolina law requires all school systems to offer free transportation to any student who lives 1.5 miles or more from his or her assigned school. Special needs students are also guaranteed free transportation. Currently, more than 953 buses serve CMS students, traveling on 5,000 daily routes. The CMS buses travel nearly 106,000 miles each day, and more than 122,800 students use these services.

education photoEfficient Education Dollars
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg community shows consistent dedication to quality education. The community passed a $516 million bond referendum in 2007 to renovate older facilities and build six new schools. These new facilities were constructed to address the growing population in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, as well as equity. The 2012-13 total operating budget for CMS is $1.2 billion with funding support from county, state and federal sources. Per pupil expenditure was $8,473 for 2011-12.

New Facilities
New facilities and renovation projects are scheduled over the next decade to address the facility needs that arise from rapid growth and aging buildings. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), CMS builds healthy, high-performance schools by following the guidelines of EPA’s IAQ Design Tools for Schools program. The district was recognized and awarded the EPA’s 2007 Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools National Model of Sustained Excellence Award.

In CMS, one thing is certain: every child deserves and can expect to receive the best education possible. To find out more about Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and the opportunities available to every child, log on to, check out CMS TV 3 or contact the Public Information Office at (980) 343-7450. 

Other School Alternatives
More than 25,000 students are enrolled in 89 private schools and charter schools. This growing system includes elementary, middle and high schools with various religious affiliations as well as independent institutions. A complete listing of these schools is available from the chamber online or in print.  Download a list of private schools.

Additional Community Support
Many organizations in Mecklenburg County support CMS’s efforts to maintain excellence in education for students. The largest of these is the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, which supports literacy and educational success through its early literacy efforts to prepare children for school; student-oriented programs and homework help after school; teen programs to help transition to college and the workforce; and summer reading programs to help students maintain academic achievement levels during summer break. More information at

For Public School Information Contact:
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
600 E. 4th St., 5th Floor, Charlotte, NC 28202