Established in 1995 by the Kenan Institute for the Arts, A+ Schools is the longest-running, arts-based whole-school reform model in the nation. When the program started, 25 schools trained together to better understand how the arts could be central to teaching and learning in all subjects. The network of schools expanded across the state as evaluation of the practice and philosophy demonstrated strong results.

In 2003, A+ Schools moved from the Kenan Institute for the Arts to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where it stayed for seven years until July 1, 2010, when the program moved to the N.C. Arts Council, an agency of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Over the years, A+ Schools developed networks in OklahomaArkansas, and Louisiana. The four states work together under the auspices of the National A+ Schools Consortium to advance the ideals of A+ on the national level and share best practices. Several individual pilot schools are in other locations where there is not yet an A+ statewide network including Alabama, Iowa, South Dakota, Texas, and Switzerland.