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#1
Old 12-14-2012, 12:26 PM
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How accurate is greatschools.org?

My husband and I have been researching schools for when the baby gets older and everyone we've talked to has said that greatschools.org is the place to go to find out whether a school is going to be acceptable for your child. They rate the schools from 1-10 based on test scores, 1 being the worst and 10 being the best. We've looked up the schools in our area and we were unimpressed with the scores for most of the schools in the city. The schools that scored high enough that we would be interested in sending her there are all either in areas where the cost of living is astronomical or where there is one great school and all the rest suck (so she would get a great elementary education but her high school would suck or vice versa) and we don't want to move every time she needs to graduate to the next level of school.

We started looking at places outside of the city and then at places all across the country (well, the northern half of the country at least...we are cold weather people and we don't want to live without snow in the winter if we can help it) and we are shocked to find pretty much the same thing in almost every city we have looked at. Almost every school we've seen across the country has been rated 1-3 out of 10 or been rated highly but surrounded by crappy schools so we would be in the same boat in other places as we are here.

This made me wonder just exactly what test scores and such greatschools.org is using to determine these school rankings. I know on a global basis the US is not highly rated in our quality of education but can it really be that bad? In my mind a 10 is excellent test scores across the board, a 5 is slightly below average and a 1 is a school where they shoot children for trying to use the library. Obviously my interpretation of these scores can't be correct but how can most of the schools across the country be rated so poorly? Is there something I'm not understanding about the way the website ranks schools that means a 1 isn't nearly as horrible as I seem to think it is?
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#2
Old 12-14-2012, 01:29 PM
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I'm also interested in hearing whether anyone has insight into how it ranks schools.

It was VERY interesting to see that the schools in our little bedroom community all rank 8-10, and almost every other school in the county is lucky to crack 6, with a lot of 3s and 4s.
#3
Old 12-14-2012, 01:35 PM
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I would like to point out that my quip in the OP was made before I heard about the tragedy in CT. I apologize for the insensitivity of my words.
#4
Old 12-14-2012, 01:55 PM
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If they're rating on test scores, then it says nothing. That's such a crude measurement that it's completely useless unless other factors are factored in.
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#5
Old 12-14-2012, 01:57 PM
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I looked up a variety of schools I know personally from different areas of the country and it seems reasonably accurate. I don't know their exact methodology but the results were about where I would place them and the hierarchy is right.

My daughters' schools all score a 9 elementary through high school and a few other nearby towns have 10's across the board. If schools are really important to you, you might want to try the MetroWest area of Boston. All of the schools are above average and many are exceptional. It is above average expensive for the U.S. but always by that much if you move to a smaller town away from Boston to the west. It is much more affordable than living somewhere else and paying for private schools

Last edited by Shagnasty; 12-14-2012 at 01:59 PM.
#6
Old 12-14-2012, 05:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shagnasty View Post
I looked up a variety of schools I know personally from different areas of the country and it seems reasonably accurate. I don't know their exact methodology but the results were about where I would place them and the hierarchy is right.

My daughters' schools all score a 9 elementary through high school and a few other nearby towns have 10's across the board. If schools are really important to you, you might want to try the MetroWest area of Boston. All of the schools are above average and many are exceptional. It is above average expensive for the U.S. but always by that much if you move to a smaller town away from Boston to the west. It is much more affordable than living somewhere else and paying for private schools
If we just want to up our living costs we'll stay in the same city and move to a different neighborhood or hit a suburb here (and we are seriously considering that as an option) but we just can't fathom how so many schools are ranking so low on their scale, especially given that many of them are in the same district and feed into the same high school. How is it that an elementary school rates a 9 out of 10 and yet when those same kids get to middle school that school is rated 3 out of 10? Did the kids just get stupid? Are the teachers so bad they can't explain the material to children proven to be fairly intelligent? Where is this discrepancy coming from? And beyond that how is it that so many schools in otherwise fabulous places seem to suck so hard?
#7
Old 12-14-2012, 06:26 PM
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I have no idea how they get their rankings, but the scores seem fairly accurate for the elementary schools in our school district. I have two kids in elementary school, so I have a pretty good idea of how the local schools are. The "better" schools were rated 9s and the "not as good" schools were 5s and 6s. That matches up with what I know of the schools - there is definitely a first tier and a second tier. The second tier schools may be a bit underrated as they are in locations with a lot of english language learners, which tends to drag down the test scores. We also live in an open enrollment district so the parents can choose any school in the district. The parents who are more concerned about education tend to put their kids in the first tier schools. Those kids tend to do better than average so it pulls up the the first tier and pushes down the second tier.
#8
Old 12-14-2012, 06:48 PM
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If you click on a school's score, then scroll down, there is a link that says "GreatSchools Ratings are based on test results. See which tests were used >" and a popup will tell you which tests they used.
For California, they use the statewide CST results. It looks like all they do is reuse the state's decile ranking. For my district and neighboring districts I did a spot-check comparison of GreatSchools to the state web page information and it was a perfect match.
Great Schools also emphasizes that you can't compare across states because different states use different criteria.
So, you could just as easily use the states webpage information. All GreatSchools does is display it in an easier to read format and allow user comments.
#9
Old 12-14-2012, 10:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pbbth View Post
This made me wonder just exactly what test scores and such greatschools.org is using to determine these school rankings.
I know nothing about the site outside of what's in this thread. I checked the scores for the school districts my daughters attend(ed)...

I would never rely on this site to provide any useful information. The three high schools are ranked as 5, 6, and 8. In descending order, I would prefer my children attend 6, 5, and 8, with the highest rated school as the least attractive for education.

That's all I'm qualified to comment on, and YMMV.

ETA: neighboring districts in the same county/state.

Last edited by azraiel; 12-14-2012 at 10:46 PM.
#10
Old 12-14-2012, 11:39 PM
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I looked at the reviews of schools in my city including my son's, and while ranking is based on standardized testing, I think the "community ratings" are spot on.
#11
Old 06-19-2014, 06:02 PM
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Info about GreatSchools.org Ratings

In most states, the GreatSchools Rating is based on state standardized test scores. In several states (CO, IL, IN, MA, MI, OH) and Milwaukee and DC, the rating also includes data about student academic growth and college readiness. Here's more info: http://greatschools.org/about/ratings.page

As a few posters noted, the community ratings of schools are also really important - parents love to get insights from other parents (and teachers) who know a school well. So if you've already found a great school, please share what you know with others by writing a review, at http://greatschools.org/school/parentReview.page

Thanks! - Alan from GreatSchools
#12
Old 06-19-2014, 09:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shagnasty View Post
I looked up a variety of schools I know personally from different areas of the country and it seems reasonably accurate. I don't know their exact methodology but the results were about where I would place them and the hierarchy is right.

My daughters' schools all score a 9 elementary through high school and a few other nearby towns have 10's across the board. If schools are really important to you, you might want to try the MetroWest area of Boston. All of the schools are above average and many are exceptional. It is above average expensive for the U.S. but always by that much if you move to a smaller town away from Boston to the west. It is much more affordable than living somewhere else and paying for private schools
Quote:
Originally Posted by pbbth View Post
If we just want to up our living costs we'll stay in the same city and move to a different neighborhood or hit a suburb here (and we are seriously considering that as an option) but we just can't fathom how so many schools are ranking so low on their scale, especially given that many of them are in the same district and feed into the same high school. How is it that an elementary school rates a 9 out of 10 and yet when those same kids get to middle school that school is rated 3 out of 10? Did the kids just get stupid? Are the teachers so bad they can't explain the material to children proven to be fairly intelligent? Where is this discrepancy coming from? And beyond that how is it that so many schools in otherwise fabulous places seem to suck so hard?
Heh. I'd forgotten about this thread! In the end this is essentially exactly what we did, moving to the 'burbs of Boston for the exemplary schools and improved quality of life for the kiddo. It was the best decision we could have made and we are now in the process of buying a house because we are so happy with life here in MA.
#13
Old 04-19-2016, 12:22 PM
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GreatSchools ratings silence dissenters

I was a parent at a private school. We were REQUIRED to post a 5-star review of the school. At first I did so out of ignorance, as we did not have any bad experiences with the school. However, after an administration change there were plenty of problems. Many of us tried to remove our favorable reviews and post critical ones; however, they never appeared due to Great Schools policies that are so complicated a critical or negative review virtually almost never appears on their website. Also, if parents only posted 4 out of 5 stars, they were pressured to change their opinions lest their child be retaliated against. (i.e. not chosen for teams, not make the school play, etc.) Many schools are very good at reputation management. They hire people to post fake positive reviews. That being said, no, the ratings are not reliable, will likely not show any negative comments, and cannot be trusted. (our old school has dropped 25% in enrollment because of problems, but still rates a 5 on GreatSchools.) If you are considering a private school, I'd head to the nearest public or charter school to see if there are any defectors that will tell you the truth. Another reliable way to test out student satisfaction is to have a child of like age approach students of the school and ask what they really like, or what they wish they could change about a school.
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