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.
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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, county and state-level scores, meaning states with a greater level of diversity also have schools with a greater level of diversity.
There are, of course, exceptions to the rule.  Our data analysis takes the average across all of the schools, but there are always outliers.  

For example, 93 percent of Vermont’s public school students are White, giving it a state-level diversity score of .14. Yet, the Integrated Arts Academy at H.O. Wheeler School in Burlington has a relatively high school diversity score of . . . read more
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 this year on the list of concerns parents have about schools today. While this issue fell behind concerns like funding and discipline, its new appearance on the list indicates the issue may be more significant. In addition to testing, parents added lack of parental support and the ability to hire high-quality teachers to their concerns list.
Are Public Schools Passing or Failing?
In the midst of debates over standardized testing and other issues facing public schools today, the Christian Science Monitor reports that most parents responding to the poll have . . . read more
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 all the children in the United States.
Impact of Charters on Math and Reading
According to a report at Reuters, charter schools students learned about the same amount of math as their traditional public school counterparts over the course of an academic year. In reading, charter school students seemed to enjoy a slight boost over traditional school students, which equated to around eight extra days in the classroom over the course of a year. Certain groups, including students from low-income families, black kids and children who speak English as . . . read more
Families often choose the location of their next home by where their children will go to school. As focus on school performance has become more astute thanks to a rising emphasis on test scores and completion rates, home shoppers have become more cautious in their selections as well. Do schools directly affect home values in a neighborhood? The answer may depend on where you are shopping for your next home.
Home Values and School Spending
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, there is a definite correlation between school expenditures and home values in any given neighborhood. A report titled, “Using Market Valuation to Assess Public School Spending,” found that for every dollar spent on public schools in a community, home values increased $20. These findings indicate that additional school expenditures may benefit everyone in the community, whether or not those residents actually have children in the local public school system.
While the findings of this national study are compelling, they do not paint a full picture of the link between school spending and home values. According to the website, some school districts may operate more efficiently, so while expenditures are lower, the quality of education is still high. In addition, the size of the district or proximity of schools from neighboring districts could impact the perception of a specific school’s value, beyond the simple expenditure formula.
Researchers that published the report also found that wealthy school districts, where home values may tend to be higher, spend their funding more efficiently. The greatest spending was seen in school districts filled with low-income families, large districts and districts containing fewer homes – areas where home values may be lower overall. The results indicate that while home buyers may associate school quality with spending to some degree, this factor will not be the most significant one in influencing home values. Still, the trend has been noted on a national level, which offers some credibility to the association between the two.
New Ratings Impact Housing Prices
In 2010, the Wall Street Journal reported on . . . read more
U.S. News has released its newest ranking of the top performing public high schools in the country. The rankings are compiled by the news publication annually to help students and parents discover the best high school choices in their states. Rankings are determined by a precise set of criteria that looks at student performance and college readiness. A special look is taken at how well a high school serves its least-advantaged students in these areas.
The Method behind the Research
To assess thousands of schools throughout the United States, U.S. News teams up with the American Institutes for Research. This DC-based organization is considered a foremost authority on behavioral and social sciences research across the globe. AIR is responsible for the new criteria utilized by U.S. News this year, which were based on the idea that top schools should effectively serve all the students in their population. This explains the specific examination of student performance by disadvantaged students at each school.
Researchers perused data from more than 21,000 high schools in 49 states and the District of Columbia. States had to provide adequate data and 12-grade enrollment to be included in the rankings. Nebraska did not submit sufficient data on the state’s high schools to be considered. Rankings were completed on a statewide and national basis, to provide the best framework for parents and students who use the rankings to choose the best local high school for their needs.
Criteria Used in Rankings
According to a report at U.S. News, the first data researchers used in their high school rankings was student performance on high school proficiency tests. Both math and English tests were used in the research, to assess how well students were meeting basic requirements for their state. In addition, researchers factored in the performance of students from low-income families specifically, since this demographic of students tends to have lower scores on statewide tests than the rest of a school’s student body. This gave researchers a more complete picture of whether students as a whole were meeting minimum standards in . . . read more
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