I wish there was one definitive answer but so much depends on your children and the way they learn. I recommend going for a school visit. I often go with parents on the visit to keep up with the schools. Children seem to pick up on what feels right for them so once you have satisfied yourself a school is what you want academically take your child to visit a couple of schools. You may be surprised what feels best to them.
This time of year a good move would to be to find out when the orientation is at the school you are considering. Just drop in and get a chance to see and talk with parents, students and teachers.
Below is a blog post I wrote about the best high schools and different criteria for judging that.
Buyers in Chapel Hill pay more for a home than Cary and pay higher taxes. .86 in Cary and 1.54 in the Chapel Hill/ Carrboro school district. Is it worth it?
That's hard to say because not everyone looks at the school rankings in the same way.
Chapel Hill/Carrboro City Schools have the highest SAT scores in the state. Property values are very high in Chapel Hill because of the schools.
Many of my clients use the ratings on GreatSchools.org to decide the best school for them. Out of 10 points, Chapel Hill High School is a 5 (#1 in SAT scores) and East Chapel Hill High is a 6 (#2 in SAT scores). Apex High is an 8 (7 in SAT scores) and Green Hope High in Cary is an 8 (#5 in state SAT scores) and Panther Creek High (9th in SAT's) in Cary is an 8.
US News and World Reports-_
Us News and World Reports ranks the best high schools in the country. Carrboro High is ranked #2 in the state and 189 nationally. It only has a 5 Great Schools score. Northwood High in Chatham County in ranked #6 in the state and 899 in the US and has a 6 Great Schools score.
If you are looking for an excellent high school in an area with reasonably priced homes, Apex High would be a good choice. Unfortunately, along with 13 other Wake County schools the enrollment is capped. That means that even if Apex High is your base school you can't go there and will have to choose from an overflow school. Here is a link to my post about Wake County capped schools. https://plus.google.com/u/0/105034569316157130695/posts/MTAG
North Chatham County would be a good bet based on Northwood High's News and World ranking(6th in the State) and Margaret Pollard Middle's 8 on Great Schools.
One of my clients said it very well. "Your child will get a good education in any of the Triangle schools because parents are well educated and care. Find the neighborhood and area that fits your family and then visit and get involved with the schools."
Whenever I receive questions about school systems here in NC, I suggest the following site as it's got hard objective data on every school in the state and no OP-ED from parents. http://www.NCReportCard.org
Feel free to contact me directly if I can be of any further assistance.