Families & the Community

Parents Will Soon Find More Information About Schools On GreatSchools Site

By Corey Mitchell — June 08, 2016 2 min read
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Cross-posted from the District Dossier blog.

Online school-rating service GreatSchools.org will partner with the federal government to provide its readers with a more detailed look at what’s happening in U.S. schools, paying particular attention to equity.

Using recently released data from the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights, the site with more than 50 million users aims to make information on student access to educational opportunity more accessible for parents.

According to a release from the Education Department, the service hopes to “spotlight access to rigorous coursework, college-readiness milestones, student absenteeism, discipline rates, athletics participation, and counselors-per-student.”

A widely used tool for parents looking to get a quick read on schools, GreatSchools claims that it reaches more than half of U.S. families with school-age children each year.

Since its rollout in the 1990s, the service has ranked more than 200,000 of the nation’s pre-K-12 public and private schools on a scale of 1 to 10, primarily using state test scores as the basis for the rankings.

That approach has rankled some educators. In a 2012 Education Week profile of Great Schools, my colleague Christina Samuels wrote that some educators have critiqued the “organization’s ratings as too narrow to provide a fair and full picture of their schools.”

“The unique national scale, school-level information and transparency that the CRDC offers can help drive meaningful conversations from the kitchen table to the principal’s office to a school board meeting,” Matthew Nelson, chief operating officer of GreatSchools, said in a prepared statement.

Including the additional data could help allay concerns that educators have about being rated solely on test scores, or it could raise fresh criticism about context. But the site also includes reviews from parents, teachers, and students, and allows administrators to contribute videos, pictures, and other information to add insights that test results can’t quite capture.

In recent years, Great Schools has developed partnerships with community organizations in a number of states like California and locales such as Detroit to “provide more in-depth information about schools for parents on its school-ratings website. And its partnership with the Education Department is not the first time GreatSchools has teamed with the federal government. Earlier this decade, the organization worked with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to allow parents who live in public housing or receive housing vouchers to learn more about school options through GreatSchools resources, as this story details.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.