One of the most important decisions you make as a parent is choosing great schools for your children. You want your son or daughter to learn about math, science, music, and art but you also want your child to grow socially and to learn about how the world works.
While you can listen to other parents about the best schools in your area, a better way of finding a great school for your son or daughter is by visiting a site like GreatSchools.
Great Schools is a nonprofit organization that helps empower parents by providing them with information about the top schools across the nation with the highest level of excellence in education. Great Schools rates schools on a scale of 1-10; schools in the 8-10 range are considered above average, or “Great Schools”.
Great Schools are nominated based on three key indicators:
- Student achievement: For many moms and dads, this is the most important factor when choosing a school. Student achievement is determined by how well a school does overall on standardized testing.
- Student growth: This is a measurement of how much pupils learn in a given year. For example, a student may start a year behind academically and over the course of a few semesters catch-up to his or her classmates or even move ahead a grade. Student growth represents how much students truly learn during the school year.
- College readiness: College readiness is determined by how well the student body performs on college acceptance tests such as the SATs.
Graduation rates also play a key role in nominations. If you use the Great Schools database to find the great schools for your child, be sure to check the site frequently as data is constantly updated.
How are Blue Ribbon schools different from Great Schools?
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public and non-public schools, like charter schools, that have displayed excellence in schooling. Blue Ribbon Schools are chosen based on two criteria:
- Dramatic improvement: Schools must show they have displayed adequate yearly progress. Additionally, in order for a school to qualify under the “dramatic improvement” category, 40 percent of its student body must come from disadvantaged backgrounds. This refers to migrant students or students that are eligible to receive Title I services (as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001) or Limited English Proficient (LEP).
The CSSO of each state defines what constitutes a student from a disadvantaged background. At a minimum, this includes students who are eligible for reduced-price and free school meals. It may also include disabled students.
- High performance: For a school to qualify under the “high performance” requirement, it must be in the top 10 of all schools in the state in reading and math for the year. Furthermore, the school must not have been identified as "persistently dangerous" or placed in the school improvement status for the last two years.
Global Report Card
There are many tools, ratings, websites, and online services dedicated to helping you choose a great school to educate your son or daughter. If you want to make your decision based on recorded scores in math and science, you can visit Global Report Card. This website, sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute, contains statistics about educational measurements in all 50 states compared to the rest of the world.
Additionally, the site contains fascinating facts presented in easily accessible thought bubbles throughout the site. For example, are you aware that American students rank 25th out of 34 industrialized countries in math? Or that close to 60 percent of a school’s impact on student achievement can be attributed to principal and teacher effectiveness?
At the end of the day, the power to identify great schools for your children is in your hands. You must sort through the available data, determine what factors are important to you, and decide which school will provide the right balance of education and nurture for your child.