Research Triangle High School (RTHS) draws upon the work of the Contemporary Science Center (CSC) in Durham, NC, an educational nonprofit founded in 2002 to nurture students' enthusiasm for careers in science and math. The CSC was created to adapt scientific discoveries and processes that originated in Research Triangle Park companies into long-format lab activities for high school students. Its focus was on experiential learning, i.e., immersing students in the process of science so as to change their thinking about science and make lifelong engagement with science more accessible.
In 2008, the CSC opened its own teaching immersion lab in partnership with the Museum of Life + Science and with the support of the Biogen Idec Foundation and the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. The CSC Lab continued to build on its core competency in designing and implementing hands-on, problem-focused field studies for teenagers based on corporate STEM research and development, and subsequently grew to serve over 900 teachers and students per year.
In 2010, recommendations from a few key leaders of the Board of Directors of the Research Triangle Foundation, the Research Triangle Park managing entity, set CSC on a new path intended to have greater impact on STEM education in the state than the original CSC program alone could achieve. The idea was to develop an innovative public STEM school that would model and scale new ways to educate, using the entrepreneurial talent and resources of the Research Triangle community to ultimately change the face of education in North Carolina and beyond.
Research Triangle Park (RTP) is home to over 150 companies and 39,000 daily employees. RTP was established in 1959 by a visionary consortium of governmental and university leaders to generate future economic growth for North Carolina. RTP has truly become the economic engine of the region and the state, setting the North Carolina standard for globally-competitive work, research and innovation.
Research Triangle High School (RTHS) is intentionally located in the central Research Triangle area to take advantage of this “living museum” of STEM work and resources. The school evolved from collaboration among the science education nonprofit, Contemporary Science Center (CSC), area science teachers, community leaders and RTP professionals. RTHS' instructional program continuously seeks ways to involve the surrounding STEM community within the school, and the school within the community, creating a porous wall between industry and education. We include community scientists, engineers, information technologists and others, including parents, as volunteer experts in the learning and experiences of the school. RTHS also acts as a hub for sharing teaching innovations with educators across NC. To learn more about our local and statewide engagement, see Partnerships or Educators.
With this charge, in 2011, a team of educators from Raleigh Charter High School, East Chapel Hill High School, Enloe High School, KIPP Gaston College Prep, Teach for America and UNC-Chapel Hill's School of Education, in collaboration with other professionals and scientists, volunteered their time and talent to advise and define this new school, drawing on their deep experiences and broad backgrounds to create a next-generation charter school. Led by Pamela Blizzard, the founder of the CSC and Raleigh Charter High School, and Eric Grunden, CSC co-founder and the science department chair at Raleigh Charter High School, this "Charter 2.0" next-generation school was designed to incorporate the kinds of authentic, rigorous experiences that the CSC had provided, while building off the strengths of other NC charter schools – leveraging their autonomy and flexibility for innovation – and sharing their experiences with public schools across the state.
This collaboration culminated in a written charter, which was submitted to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction in November of 2011 and subsequently approved in 2012. The school opened on August 13, 2012 at 10 Park Drive in the Research Triangle Park, with an inaugural class of 145 ninth graders. RTHS intends to enroll 105 new ninth graders each year, attaining the enrollment level of 420 students across the four high school grades by 2015.
Download the abridged version of the charter application.