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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Which States Have the Best Public Schools?
We report on the annual survey by Education Week that lists the status of public education in all 50 states.
The numbers are in that indicate how well the education system in the United States is serving its students. Education Week has released its 17th annual ratings for the quality of education in each of the 50 states, awarding letter grades to schools similar to those found on student report cards. Unfortunately, the report card indicated there is still plenty of work to do for most states across the country, with an average national grade of a C+ overall. However, there were a number of bright spots across the survey as well, particularly in the top rated states where education appears to be thriving in many ways.
“Quality Counts”
The survey, titled, “Quality Counts,” uses six key metrics to grade the quality of education in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The metrics are as follows:
  • K-12 Achievement
  • Assessment and Accountability
  • Transitions and Alignment
  • Standards
  • Students’ Chances for Long-Term Success
  • The Teaching Profession
Within these six metrics are more than 100 indicators that include such factors as graduation rates, education funding and achievement gaps, according to a report on the survey at the Washington Post. Data was collected from sources like the U.S. Department of Education and the Census Bureau to compile these recent rankings.
Interesting Note on Findings
When discussions on education quality arise, many of them tend to center on school funding. The general school of thought is that the more money that is pumped into public schools, the higher the education quality will be. However, the numbers in
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15 Fortune 500 CEOs that Attended Public School
Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, and Michael Dell: what do they have in common? A public high school education! Be inspired by 15 CEOs that started their path in public schools.
When lists come out of the rich and famous, it is often assumed that these individuals were raised in an elite environment filled with private schooling and tutors to guide them on their path to success. However, many of the CEOs at Fortune 500 companies today came from much more humble beginnings – through the public school systems in their neighborhoods. If there was ever a doubt about how public school can launch students on the road to prosperity, these 15 individuals are living examples to dispel those doubts.
       1.    Michael T. Duke – Wal-Mart Stores

Michael Duke is currently serving as the fourth Chief Executive Officer for Wal-Mart. Duke joined the company in 1995 and quickly developed a broad base of experience as he led the Logistics, Distribution and Administration Divisions, and more recently, the U.S. Operations. From 2005 to 2009, Duke served as vice-chairman of the company, taking the reins as CEO in February, 2009, according to a bio at the Wall Street Journal.

Duke has a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology. After college, he held positions with a number of retail companies before heading to Wal-Mart, including Federated Department Stores, May Department Stores and Venture Stores. Before his college career, Michael Duke was a student at Fayette County High School, located in Fayetteville, Georgia, according to Wikipedia.
       2.     Rex W. Tillerson – Exxon Mobil
Rex W. Tillerson is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Exxon Mobil. According to the company website,
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Allowing Guns in Schools? Some Districts are Weighing their Options
As school districts nationwide grapple with the Sandy Hook tragedy, some are considering the option of arming teachers and other school employees to protect students.
The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut shook the country, leaving many asking how an individual could get into a “safe” school and open fire on young children and adults alike. As the aftermath of the shootings continues to rattle educators, students and parents, lawmakers are taking a look at what they can do to prevent such tragedies in the future. For some states and school districts, one option on the table has been to allow more, not fewer, guns in the communities and within the schools themselves. However, suggestions of arming schools staff have been met with significant concern and more than a few protests from parents and the teachers themselves.

Missouri Lawmakers Consider Arming School Staff

Missouri is one of the states considering legislation that would allow teachers and administrators to carry concealed firearms in schools. The Joplin Globe reports that State Representative Mike Kelly (R-Lamar) has begun the process to file a bill that would allow for the practice if the teachers and administrators had a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Kelly is not alone in his efforts – thus far, 24 other state lawmakers have signed on to co-sponsor the bill. Kelly told the Globe that if the bill passes, he would try to add an amendment that would require concealed firearms to be kept on the teacher or administrator at all times throughout the school day. 

Another Missouri lawmaker, State Representative Bill White (R-Joplin) is considering a bill that would allow
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Oklahoma Schools Receive Report Cards
We analyze the recent report cards issued based on Oklahoma’s new assessment structure – and why some educators are outraged over their marks.
Report cards were recently released for the 1,750 schools in the state of Oklahoma, under the new evaluation system implemented by the state’s Department of Education. While most schools were not entirely surprised with their marks, some districts complained that the new system did not provide a fair assessment of some of their schools. Others are busy celebrating the high marks they received, attributing their outstanding academic performance to a wide variety of factors.

New Grading System Overview

The Oklahoma legislature created the new method of grading schools to create “accountability and transparency among schools,” according to the Oklahoma Daily. Lawmakers also wanted to make the grading system easy for parents to understand, so they can make educated decisions about the best schools for their children. It was also designed to help schools identify specific weaknesses so that targeted solutions for strengthening and improving schools could be implemented.

“These report cards are user-friendly, straightforward and fair,” Janet Barresi, State Superintendent of Public Instruction for Oklahoma, told the Oklahoma Daily. “It is high time for parents to have access to this information as they seek to make the best educational choices for their children. Parents have a basic right to this information, and they should be able to find it easily.”
The new grading system employs a formula that takes a number of factors into consideration when determining overall school performance. Oklahoma Gazette explains that the new grading system looks at five core academic areas, including math, reading, writing, science and
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School Security in the Aftermath of Sandy Hook: What are Schools Doing to Protect Students?
We explore some of the security measures currently in place at schools around the country, and how those measures might change in the aftermath of the horrific Sandy Hook tragedy.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school tragedy, parents spent the weekend holding their children a little tighter and telling them how much they loved them a little more often. Then Monday morning arrived, and it was time to send those children off to school once again. Only Monday was different – parents didn’t drop their children off with the same carefree spirit they had done just a few short days before. Now, there was fear and anxiety surrounding that seemingly simple, normal event, as parents wondered what their own schools were doing to keep children safer. Some parents purchased bulletproof vests for their children, others equipped little ones with bulletproof backets.  In the wake of Sandy Hook, schools too are working to find ways to improve safety and reassure parents that they can leave their children at school with some peace of mind.

Learning from Previous Events

While the Sandy Hook occurrence was one of the worst shootings at a public school to date, other similar tragic events have moved some schools to implement new security procedures already. Kentucky.com reports that in 1997, a 14-year-old student at Heath High School killed three classmates and wounded five others. The students had been gathered for a prayer meeting when the student began firing. One year after the event, the state of Kentucky mandated that every public school had to have a safety plan that took into account a broad range of potential situations, from an earthquake to

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Evaluating Public Schools

School Zoning

Learn more about zoning rules, how they impact schools and your child. This section offers information on the history of school zones, what they are, and how they work. Get information on who decides school boundaries and the impact those decisions have on the community.

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.