What’s a good school? And how do you know?
How you answer may affect where you choose to live, send your children, or teach.
How we answer as a state can affect the future of children, teachers, schools, and communities. Teachers may lose their jobs, schools may close, tax bases may shrink.
There are a lot of ways to rank schools.
This week Niche listed the “Top 100 Public High Schools in Massachusetts.” You may be surprised.
It’s quite different from Boston Magazine’s “Best Public High Schools in Greater Boston.”
That’s because both rankings include MCAS scores — but also other things. Both include graduation rate and sports. Niche includes lots of other data, including diversity, and parent and student surveys on food, school culture and safety, administration, and other topics.
And US News produces a ranking different from either of those, again largely based on test scores, with some adjustment for demography.
The Mass. Department of Education ranks schools and places them in levels based mostly on standardized test scores, which in turn correlate highly with parental income and education. This ranking determines which districts are in the “bottom 20%” or Level 3. Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester has the discretion to choose schools from among those at level 3 for drastic intervention, but he usually defends this decision with test scores.
Rankings that purport to measure school quality are very different, depending on what the rankers think school quality consists of.
Do it yourself!
A few years ago, Holy Cross professor and Somerville resident Jack Schneider created a “Dream School Finder,” published in the Boston Globe. The tool allows you to weight available data and then rank schools according to your own values.
Some districts are trying new ways to measure school quality and student learning. More on that soon.