A good school can lead to a lifetime of opportunities. Myriad data shows that lifetime earnings dramatically increase with every degree obtained. Bachelor’s degree holders will earn an average of roughly $26,000 more each year than high school graduates. And for those who decide that pursuing a college degree is not the best postsecondary option, a good school will provide students with the tools and support to make that choice, and the foundational skills necessary to succeed in the workforce.

For many families, the school district is a top criteria when deciding where to buy a home. But this consideration and ability to choose is not a luxury all families can afford, especially in today’s wildly competitive housing market.

One important proxy of a quality education is per-student spending. According to the most recent Census data available, the national average per-pupil expenditure in fiscal year 2019 was $13,187. Several recent studies suggest that increased spending per student correlates with higher academic achievement, particularly in districts serving predominantly low-income students. Since public schools are largely funded by property taxes, schools in low-income areas suffer the most from a lack of funding for critical expenditures like staff salaries and benefits, transportation, instructional resources, and support services.

There are more than 13,000 school districts in the U.S., each one slightly different, for better or worse, than the next. However, several common denominators exist and, when compared, can serve as indicators of what makes an impactful district.

Stacker compiled a list of the best school districts in North Carolina using rankings from Niche. Niche ranks school districts based on a variety of criteria including academics (SAT/ACT scores and state proficiency tests), teacher salaries, expenses per student, and access to extracurricular activities.

#10. Elkin City Schools (Elkin)

– Number of schools: 3 (1,219 students)
– Graduation rate: 77% (62% reading proficient and 53% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $49,027 (14:1 student to teacher ratio)

#9. Newton Conover City Schools (Newton)

– Number of schools: 7 (3,001 students)
– Graduation rate: 94% (44% reading proficient and 38% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $45,303 (16:1 student to teacher ratio)

#8. Wake County Schools (Cary)

– Number of schools: 191 (163,404 students)
– Graduation rate: 90% (56% reading proficient and 50% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $44,525 (16:1 student to teacher ratio)

#7. Mount Airy City Schools (Mount Airy)

– Number of schools: 4 (1,640 students)
– Graduation rate: 87% (47% reading proficient and 43% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $45,948 (14:1 student to teacher ratio)

#6. Mooresville Graded School District (Mooresville)

– Number of schools: 8 (6,080 students)
– Graduation rate: 94% (55% reading proficient and 54% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $43,268 (16:1 student to teacher ratio)

#5. Asheville City Schools (Asheville)

– Number of schools: 10 (4,443 students)
– Graduation rate: 91% (59% reading proficient and 46% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $43,761 (12:1 student to teacher ratio)

#4. Watauga County Schools (Boone)

– Number of schools: 10 (4,756 students)
– Graduation rate: 90% (59% reading proficient and 52% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $44,660 (13:1 student to teacher ratio)

#3. Union County Public Schools (Monroe)

– Number of schools: 52 (41,707 students)
– Graduation rate: 93% (60% reading proficient and 63% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $45,429 (16:1 student to teacher ratio)

#2. Polk County Schools (Columbus)

– Number of schools: 7 (2,201 students)
– Graduation rate: 92% (62% reading proficient and 58% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $47,040 (13:1 student to teacher ratio)

#1. Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (Chapel Hill)

– Number of schools: 20 (12,426 students)
– Graduation rate: 91% (67% reading proficient and 64% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $45,683 (14:1 student to teacher ratio)