Evolution of the GreatSchools Rating

Since its inception back in 2006, the GreatSchools Rating has helped millions of parents evaluate their neighborhood schools, make clear and simple comparisons, and find a great school for their child. In a world of dizzying education data, the GreatSchools Rating offers an easy-to-understand measure of overall test score performance. The value of the rating is its simplicity and scale; the 1-to-10 rating is straightforward, while maintaining methodological integrity and scalability.

However, we know that parents care about more than test scores alone, so we’ve begun to test ways to include multiple measures of school quality in the GreatSchools Rating. Just as a doctor wouldn’t give a patient a clean bill of health based on blood pressure alone, it is important to evaluate various factors of a school’s overall performance. Here are a few concepts we’re beginning to test with an eye toward scaling the innovations that look most promising:
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Introducing our new school profiles

While measures of a school’s academic performance (such as test scores) are important, we know from experience that parents crave a far broader perspective on the schools they’re considering. In response, we at GreatSchools have enhanced our school profiles by collecting and providing details on school culture, climate, and programs. And, we’ve made this information available to readers in a simpler, more comprehensible format.

“School Profiles” have always been the core of the GreatSchools mission, and with the roll out of our new profile design, we have already begun to see parents spending more time on the site, viewing more pages, and considering more options than ever before. We’ve created a new feature that allows representatives of schools and organizations to contribute to their schools’ profile and provide details about their institution’s strengths and unique programs. If you are a school leader or influence school leaders, we’d appreciate you passing information about this feature along so we can keep improving our school profiles.
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Proof of impact

A Stanford study finds that GreatSchools Local has a real impact on how parents of elementary age kids choose schools

For the past five years, GreatSchools has been operating local programs in select cities to help parents who might not otherwise have access to resources and knowhow find the right schools for their children. As we have collected feedback that parents appreciate and use our services, our local offices have expanded and evolved. Milwaukee’s office opened in November 2007 followed by ones in Washington, DC in 2009 and Indianapolis in 2011. All three communities have open enrollment, abundant charter options, and voucher programs for low-income families. We reach predominantly low-income families. In 2011-12, 60% of families we served in Washington, DC and 70% in Milwaukee, WI were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

Yet without a well-designed rigorous study conducted by a neutral party, it’s been difficult to measure the impact of our programs. This fall, with the preliminary release of findings from a randomized control trial (RCT) conducted through Stanford University’s Center for Education Policy Analysis (CEPA), we can finally point to strong evidence that GreatSchools Local is influencing parents to choose higher performing schools.
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GreatSchools Takes Silver at Gates-Facebook Hackathon

GreatSchools recently participated in and won 2nd place at HackEd, an inspiring 1-day education “hackathon” sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, CA.  College Summit and King Center Charter School co-sponsored the event.

The goal of the hackathon was to encourage developers, education experts, and nonprofits to prototype Facebook apps that help low-income and first-generation students get into and graduate from college.  HackEd was also the official kickoff for the College Knowledge Challenge, a broader challenge issued by the Gates Foundation with 30 more prizes totaling $2.5M.

More than 150 people attended HackEd, including representatives from organizations such as iMentor, 4.0 Schools, EverFiMytonomy, Unigo, and more.
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Giving parents more and better information about schools

Reaching nearly half of all American K-12 households, GreatSchools is the leading source of information about schools for parents nationally. For more than a decade, we’ve published data to help families understand how schools are performing academically and we’ve coupled that with an unparalleled collection of community ratings and reviews – more than one million at last count.

While our ratings and reviews are one of the best ways to learn about a school, we know that parents must also look beyond the numbers in order to fairly assess whether a particular school will be a good fit for their child and family. They need reliable information about a school’s programs, culture, and unique features – information that is hard to come by at scale.
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