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What Is School Ranking?

School ranking is carried out by various organizations in order to allow parents and others to judge and compare the quality of schools. This articles explains the basics of school ranking.

How Are School Rankings Used?

People might use school rankings in making decisions about where to live when buying a home. If a choice of schools is available--either because private school is an option or because the local area offers school choice--school ranking can assist in making a good decision for the child's education.

Statewide Rankings

The National Center for Educational Statistics The National Center for Educational Statistics  (NCES) offers state-by-state information about schools. Each state is assessed on the following terms:

• Student Characteristics, such as enrollment
• School/District Characteristics, such as per-pupil expenditure and pupil/teacher ratio
• Racial/Ethnic Background
• History of NAEP Participation and Performance at the State Level, including assessment in:

    • Mathematics
    • Reading
    • Science
    • Writing

More detailed data about the assessments is available via links.

National, State, District, and Individual School Rankings

The United Stated Department of Education does not itself rank schools, but on the website, it recommends the school ranking information available on the Standard & Poors website, SchoolMatters. This website provides information at four levels:

• National
• State
• District
• School

The data is mostly in table form, with graph form being available as an alternative in a number of cases at all levels.

The National page gives overall information about U.S. Public schools in 7 areas:

• National Overview
• Student Performance
• College Prep
• Spending, Revenue & Taxes
• School Environment
• National Demographics
• S&P Ratios

*  The National Overview gives information such as:

    • Number of Students
    • Per-Pupil Spending
    • Number of Schools--Elementary, Middle, and High Scools
    • Number of Charter Schools

In addition, the following information is included:

    • NAEP Results
    • Estimated Graduation Rate
    • Spending Summary
    • Percentage of Students with Special Needs
    • Household Income Distribution

* The Student Performance section gives Grade 4 and Grade 8 results in Math and Reading and Graduation Rates.

* The College Prep section is not yet functional (November, 2006)

* The Spending, Revenue & Taxes section includes expenditures per pupil for operating and capital expenses, as well as overall expenditures, compensation indicators, and revenue figures.

* The School Environment section covers enrollment by grade, as well as by other student characteristics such as race and ethnicity, special needs, and gender.

* The National Demographics sections gives a snapshot of the U.S. population:

    • Adult education levels
    • Household characteristics
    • Income and wealth
    • Population statistics

* The S&P Ratios are spending indicators that S&P offers with a User Advisory that notes that the information has limitations and should be used carefully.

The State information includes the same categories as national with a choice of viewing comparisons between the state data and national data or trends in the state data and a link to the state department of education, but also (as applicable):

• State scores on college entrance examinations (ACT and SAT)
• Performance on local assessments besides Reading and Math and at the appropriate grade levels
• Comparisons of state testing and NAEP testing
• Information on the State education budget
• Enrollment trends
• Teacher certification data

Data on No Child Left Behind  (NCLB) is in the works.

At the District and School levels, the same data as at the state level is given along with comparisons with both state and national data are offered, and up to five districts can be compared. In addition, links allow the user to Google or map the school district, as well as print the page, and e-mail the page. In addition, on certain pages, one can use special tools for:

• Benchmarking
• finding Better Performers
• Comparing
• Creating Tables

There are other sites that feature parent reviews. These may not always be reliable, but can be located by Googling "school rankings."

Sources Used for This Article

The National Center for Educational Statistics: The Nation's Report Card

Standard & Poors:  SchoolMatters

U.S. Department of Education (US DOE): School Ranking

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