Greatschools.netorg rolled out a new tool for parents this morning on the Today Show.  Check it out.

6 Replies to “Tools”

  1. At first I thought this was a helpful new tool, but then I realized there was no way to see how subgroups achieve at a particular school–so the schools hide in their averages. This is a persistent and misleading issue when looking at test scores and schools.

    A much better tool in my opinion is the Colorado accountability tool that shows whether and how each school is doing with regards to scores AND student growth and can be broken down by subgroup. Sometimes schools with high scores are not adding much growth, and when viewed by subgroup, are actually only doing a good job educating one particular group, usually White students. This is a MUCH more helpful tool for a parent.

    Here’s a link:

    And for a more specific view, here’s a link to Denver:

    You can hover over each circle and see the name of each school, and then to look closer, you can click on a school and view it’s performance by different categories.

  2. I looked up my own high school in Texas and they only had 4th and 8th grade reading and math scores in addition to graduation rates and as Christine mentioned, the scores were not dissagregated in any way. So the web site is basically useless for looking at high schools. The color coded maps are very pretty but they are maps of elementary and middle school test data not the high school’s own data.

    In addition, graduation rates are easy for schools to fudge. Here in Texas it is common for students to withdraw from a particular school to enroll in private school or home schooling. As long as the school that the student is leaving can document that the student is either transferring to another school or being withdrawn for homeschooling then the student doesn’t count as a dropout. Because Texas has compulsory attendance for ages 6-17 a lot of kids who are actually dropping out tell the school that they are doing it for home schooling so they don’t get hassled by truant officers.

    I imagine there are thousands of kids being withdrawn for “home schooling” every year in Texas when in effect all they are doing is dropping out.

  3. This is Bill Jackson, CEO of GreatSchools, with a few responses and comments.

    I agree that disagragated data is valuable and think the Colorado site is great.

    I think there are 2 interesting things about this tool:

    1. You can see school, district, state and national performance all on the same page. Good for a general audience.

    2. You can get insight into how high or low your state’s expecations for students are. (You also get insight into the accuracy of your state’s graduation rate calculation.) See the “accuracy meters” in the state section of the report card for this.


  4. Thanks for replying, Bill. I had just been thinking about writing to you (or someone!) at GreatSchools to ask some questions and hear about future plans–now I’ll just do it here.

    I think what you are offering is very user friendly and is a great way to get more people to use data in their daily lives. The data you provide already exists, but few districts make it available without some (or a lot of) digging around. The format also makes things stand out–hmmm, there are 2 better schools nearby, or wow, this school is really doing poorly, and there’s not even another school on the map. It will hopefully make people start asking some questions.

    And I do like the nested approach, where you can see school, district, state, national.

    On the other hand, education is so local for most people, that I think they’ll spend most of their time clicking on nearby schools.

    Back to the data issue, schools and districts can use averages that are not helpful to the families we are most concerned about. And it might actually be a mistake for a low income or minority parent to angle hard to get into a school with a good reputation and “good” test scores, if they knew that African American children at that school are scoring 45 points behind the White children at that same school. (True example near my neighborhood– I can figure it out by going to the state report card web site and reach it 5 rather unintuitive clicks later.) Maybe something only a researcher would do.

    GreatSchools has consolidated a massive amount of data–my colleagues were remarking “better you than us!” But do you have plans to add more nuance a la Colorado (and the growing number of other states that are taking on that model)? It would be a huge service.

    Also, in the example above, I looked at a nearby SIG school in my own neighborhood and in the map there were no other schools shown. Would there ever be a way to drag the map in different directions to find other schools? (Like in Google maps.)

    Finally, the reason I didn’t write you right away was that there was no way on this Education Nation Scorecard page to leave any comments. I’m sure people will have lots of ideas that might be useful–it would be great to make it easier for them to comment. Then again, maybe not:)

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