When you look at a school’s overall rating, or grade, by a particular organization, you need to know what you’re really looking at. If you don’t understand what goes into assigning a school a particular grade, you don’t have all the information you need to make an informed decision about which school to send your child to.

Test Scores

One of the most important factors in what rating a school gets is based on the students’ test scores. These test scores come from standardized tests that students take in certain grades every year. Each state administers some kind of standardized test to ensure that the quality of education in the state is up to national and international standards. Students are typically tested in reading, writing, and math. In some cases, they may be tested in science and social studies as well.

Other Student Outcomes

If data is available, you may find that a school’s overall grade is affected by the growth that its students have made from year to year on standardized test scores. Additionally, a school may be graded on its graduation rate, and on how well students are prepared for college when they graduate. Comparing multiple student outcomes when choosing a school gives you a better picture of how well a school is actually doing at providing students an education.

Ratings by Parents

If you’re looking at a website with ratings by parents, remember to take into consideration that each parent has a different opinion about a certain school. Take what you read about the school with a grain of salt, meaning that you should probably talk to other people in your community about the school in person and visit the school yourself to see if what you read online is true, and whether it even matters to you. 

Try to get as unbiased a picture of the reputation of the schools you’re considering as possible. Dig into their test scores, growth, and talk to the parents of students who attend those schools. Visit the schools yourself, and talk to the teachers and administration to help you make your final decision. 

Author: Leyla Norman
Leyla is a certified English as a second language teacher as well as a certified PK-6 and 7-12 English teacher. She lives in Texas with her husband, and three children (The twins keep her the most busy!). She is also a freelance education writer, private English tutor, and student in a master's of Applied Linguistics -TESOL program..