Evaluating Public Schools

This section provides tools to aid in finding the best public school option for your child. Compare private and public schools, explore school zoning issues, and delve into the public school grading and ranking system. Find information on the safest schools and what they are doing right.
View the most popular articles in Evaluating Public Schools:
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Public School Review Diversity Report: Which States Have the Most Diverse Public Schools?
Which states have the most diverse public schools? We analyze our data to find how much diversity truly exists on public school campuses. Learn about the varying levels of school diversity in regions around the nation, as well as the benefits derived from ethnic diversity in schools.
American public schools have made tremendous progress since the Supreme Court declared school segregation unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education. Schools throughout the nation are more diverse than ever before as a result of desegregation, immigration of people to this country, and emigration of citizens from one region of the nation to another. Sixty years after the Supreme Court’s decision, schools in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and other southern states where segregation was once so prominent have shown great gains in diversity.
 
But which states have the most diverse public school campuses? We collected data and analyzed the numbers to develop an original list illustrating how much diversity truly exists in each state’s public schools. 
 
Diversity Scores of Public Schools
 
To equally compare the diversity of public schools in our country, we mined student population data and calculated diversity scores at the school, town, county and state levels. 
 
While “diversity” commonly refers to the presence of minorities, we were interested in understanding the presence of more than one ethnic group on campus. For example, while the Los Angeles Unified School District has many schools that have 90% or more Hispanic students on campus, this would be considered a homogenous school, rather than a diverse one.  
 
As such, our formula determines the likelihood that any two students are from different ethnic groups.  Scores closer to 1 indicate greater diversity, while scores closer to 0 indicate lesser diversity.  
 
When examining the various levels of scoring, school-level scores are more or less indicative of the town,...
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New Poll Shows What Parents Think of Current State of Public Schools
We report on the latest poll by Gallup and Phi Delta Kappa that surveyed individuals nationwide to discover their views on the current state of public schools.
A new PDK/Gallup Poll offers some interesting statistics on how parents view the current state of public schools. While standardized testing did make its way into the poll, more parents were worried about school funding than how to assess school and student performance. The majority of parents also thought their neighborhood school was doing a pretty good job, although they didn’t rank public schools as well on a national level. Read on to learn more about how parents see the condition of public education today.
 
About the Poll
 
The poll is a collaborative effort between Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup. The poll is conducted annually, and is considered one of the best-known research instruments today. This year, researchers surveyed more than 1,000 Americans over the age of 18, asking both questions from previous years and questions new to this year’s survey. Because it is performed annually, researchers are able to track changing views of the education system, as well as evaluate new ideas and processes in public education.
 
The Standardized Test Question
 
With No Child Left Behind and Common Core Standards still floating around Washington, the big question remains whether standardized testing is proving its worth in the education realm. According to this recent poll, parents don’t find standardized testing very valuable for their children. Less than one-quarter of those polled thought tests had improved the quality of education in public schools. Three-quarters believed testing had made no difference or even hurt the education environment for students.
 
Standardized testing came in fifth...
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Amid CDC Concerns, States Considering Revisions to Concussion Policies
We take a look at a recent call by U.S. health officials to change public policies involving sports-related head trauma injuries, and how some states are already answering the call.
As awareness over the dangers of brain trauma increases, school districts, states and even the federal government are looking at ways to minimize the dangers in youth athletics. With new policies and training in place, the hope is that those working with youth sports will more effectively learn to recognize and treat the symptoms of concussions. Take a look at how some groups are tackling this problem head-on to minimize the risk to the youngest athletes in this country.
 
What is a Concussion?

One of the first goals in educating the general public about the dangers of concussions is to first explain what a concussion looks like. According to the North Jefferson News, a concussion is caused by either a direct blow to the head or a blow to the body that jars the head. The impact or jolt interferes with normal brain function. Although a concussion is classified as a mild form of traumatic brain injury, it is still serious – particularly if the individual suffers more than one in a season.
 
Symptoms
Symptoms of a concussion might include loss of consciousness, although this occurs in only about 10 percent of all concussion cases. Other symptoms might include feelings of pressure in the head, confusion, headaches, dizziness, and blurred vision. Some children may complain of a fuzzy or foggy head, while others may seem unsure of what they are doing or where they are.
 
Treatment
Treatment for a concussion can vary, based on the specific symptoms and the individual child. If a...
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10 Advantages to Public Education
Public schools are far from perfect, but they still offer significant benefits to the students that attend their classrooms every day. We’ll list a few of those advantages here.
Public education has gotten a bit of a bad rap in recent decades, as many families are exploring other education options, like homeschooling, private schools and charter schools. However, public schools still serve a significant role in preparing the next generation of world leaders. Check out these 10 potential advantages a public school education can provide.
 
Cost
The cost of a public education can’t be beat. Although some parents might complain about the recently added expenses of supplies and participation in sports teams, these schools are still much more budget-friendly than their private counterparts. According to GreatSchools.org, the average tuition for private schools in the United States during the 2008-2009 school years was $10,841. The average cost for a boarding school during that same year was $23,448. Schools affiliated with the National Association of Independent Schools charged even more.
 
In addition, private schools get additional funding through private donations. In many cases, this could mean parents of students at the schools may have to invest time and money on fundraising events for the school throughout the year. While public schools also participate in fund raisers, the bulk of their funding still comes through federal, state and local government sources.
 
Availability
Public schools provide access to an education for every child in a community. The Huffington Post notes that by law, public schools cannot turn students away based on academic performance, income level or disability. This ensures that every student in a neighborhood has the same educational opportunities as the neighbors down...
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No Consistency in Charter School Quality, New Study Finds
We examine the new CREDO study, which finds charter schools are not necessarily outperforming traditional public schools on the national level. Also, concern has been raised from this study over significant inconsistencies in charter school quality from school to school.
A new study shows that while charter schools are making significant gains in their performance, they are not exceeding public schools in most areas of the country. In addition, the study found vast variations in the quality of public school throughout the nation, with charters in some states outperforming traditional schools and charters in other states falling sadly behind. As interest in charter schools continues to grow, many are looking at studies like this with interest to determine whether these non-traditional schools can pull their weight in the public school system.
 
Taking a Closer Look at Charter Schools
 
The Washington Post reports that the latest study was conducted by researchers at Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO). Researchers analyzed test data for schools in 26 states and the District of Columbia to compare performance of charter schools to that of traditional public schools. To obtain the most accurate comparisons, charter school students were compared directly to a “virtual twin” - a composite of seven students from a nearby school with similar demographics to the charter school student.
 
Like traditional public schools, public charter schools are funded with tax dollars. However, unlike traditional schools, charters do not have to follow the guidelines and curriculum standards required by the local school system. Most charters are not unionized and they are typically run by either parent organizations or more recently, by for-profit companies. Approximately 2.3 million students attend charter schools today, which accounts for approximately 4 percent of...
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Recent Public School Articles
Students of Color Disproportionately Disciplined in Schools
Students of Color Disproportionately Disciplined in Schools
Research shows that students of color face a disproportionate number of disciplinary actions in U.S. public schools. Learn about these disparities, as well as the policies that fuel them. Also learn about suggested measures to address this problem.
Charter Schools Produce More Graduates than Public Schools
Studies show that graduation rates at charter schools outpace graduation rates at public schools. Learn how charter schools have been able to improve graduation rates, and the positive effects charter schools have on students’ lives in the long-term.
Changing Demographics Will Alter the Diversity of Public Schools
Learn about projected changes in public school enrollment of various ethnic groups and what problems may be ahead for state education systems as they try to cope with increasing financial demands as a result of increased enrollment.
Evaluating Public Schools

Getting Started

An overview of school designations, best practices for evaluating your options, and tips on choosing the best school for your child. Learn about Blue Ribbon, Vocational and Special Education schools. Get tips on finding the right school in a new neighborhood, city or state.

Grading and Ranking Schools

Explore the public school grading/ranking system, how it works and what it means. Get latest national rankings and read what critics of school grading have to say. Take a look at the nation’s top performing schools as ranked by U.S. News and Newsweek.

Public School Safety

A comprehensive look at the safety of US public schools. Learn what schools are doing to combat gangs and drugs, prepare for natural disasters, and protect your children from predators. From web cameras to armed guards, see what tools public schools are employing to keep kids safe.

Public vs. Private Schools

A comparison of public and private schools, the pros and cons of each, and a look at the cost of getting a stellar education at both. Take a look at some of the most expensive schools, notable public school alumni, and learn more about “private” public schools.