GreatSchools unveiled its new system of rating schools on Thursday that aims to give parents a better picture of school success than just the percentage of students scoring proficient on a standardized test.
Among the new indicators is an Academic Progress rating that shows how much improvement students make during the school year. An Equity Rating will communicate how the school serves different groups of students, including those from low-income families and those from racial and ethnic groups that experience “persistent negative performance gaps” according to state data, Matthew Nelson, the CEO of the nonprofit organization, said in a conference call briefing on Wednesday.
- The new system also includes an Advanced Coursework Rating, showing the average number of advanced courses a student takes at each school, a college readiness measure, showing graduation rates and the rates of students taking college entrance exams, and data on discipline and chronic absenteeism.
“One the biggest decisions any family faces is where to send their kid to school,” Nelson said. “We are really trying to help parents get a transparent view of how schools are serving our children and to make sense of the data.”
While the organization has attempted to help parents in making decisions about which school their child should attend or which neighborhood to target when buying a home, most parents recognize that there’s a lot more to school quality and picking the right school for their child than test scores. In fact, during the most recent PDK Poll, less than half — 42% — said scores on standardized tests are a reliable indicator of school quality. In addition, more than three-quarters of the respondents in that survey agreed that advanced academic classes are the mark of a good school.
The GreatSchools system has been criticized in past years for using only percentages of students reaching proficiency on state tests to rate schools and for not considering many of the other ways to demonstrate school quality. Some experts suggest that scores on standardized tests communicate more about the socioeconomic status of a school rather than the quality of the learning environment. And as with students, no one measure — or rating system — can sum up all of a school’s strengths and weaknesses.