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How Important Are School Ratings? A Comprehensive Guide for Parents and Students on School Ratings

Updated: May 26, 2023

As parents and students, you may have come across various school ratings when searching for the perfect educational institution. But have you ever wondered what these ratings actually mean and how they are calculated? In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the importance of school ratings, their limitations, and other essential factors to consider when evaluating schools.

Parents Meeting in a Classroom illustration
Parent Meeting Illustration


What are school ratings, and how are they calculated?

School ratings are numerical scores or rankings assigned to schools based on various factors such as academic performance, student outcomes, and other school-related criteria. Different organizations, such as Niche, Great Schools, School Digger, and Neighborhood Scout, use distinct methodologies and factors to calculate these ratings. However, most ratings consider standardized test scores, graduation rates, and student-teacher ratios.

Why are school ratings important for parents and students?

School ratings are valuable for parents and students when evaluating educational options. They provide a snapshot of a school's overall performance, impact on property values, college admissions, and student outcomes. They offer insights to help families make informed decisions about their children's education.

The importance of school ratings

Why do parents and students consider school ratings?

Parents and students use school ratings to compare various institutions and make informed decisions about their educational options. High school ratings may be associated with better education quality, improved student outcomes, and increased college admissions chances.

How do school ratings affect property values?

School ratings can significantly impact property values in a neighborhood. Properties near highly-rated schools tend to have higher values, as many homebuyers consider the quality of local education when purchasing a home. As a result, neighborhoods with top-rated schools are often in high demand.

How do school ratings impact college admissions?

Highly-rated schools often have a reputation for preparing students well for college. College admissions officers may consider an applicant's high school rating when evaluating their application, as it can indicate the rigor of their academic experience.

How do school ratings affect student outcomes and success?

Schools with higher ratings generally have better student outcomes, such as higher graduation rates and standardized test scores. Attending a highly-rated school can also provide students with a more enriching learning environment, fostering academic success.

The limitations of school ratings

How do school ratings oversimplify the complexity of education?

While school ratings can provide valuable information, they often oversimplify the complexity of education. A single numerical score may not capture the nuances of a school's strengths and weaknesses, and relying solely on ratings can lead to overlooking important aspects of a school's offerings.

What factors are not included in school ratings?

School ratings may not consider extracurricular offerings, culture, community involvement, or unique programs. These factors can significantly contribute to a student's overall educational experience and should not be ignored when evaluating a school.

What are some potential negative consequences of over-relying on school ratings?

Over-relying on school ratings can result in overlooking a school that may be a perfect fit for a student based on their individual needs, strengths, and interests. It can also lead to undue pressure on schools to focus solely on improving their ratings, potentially sacrificing other crucial aspects of education.

Other factors to consider when evaluating schools

Curriculum and teaching methodology

Parents and students should evaluate a school's curriculum and teaching methodology to ensure it aligns with their educational goals and values.

Extracurricular activities and programs

Extracurricular activities and programs are vital to a student's overall development. When evaluating schools, consider the variety and quality of extracurricular offerings, such as sports, arts, clubs, and community service opportunities.

Class size and student-teacher ratio

Smaller class sizes and lower student-teacher ratios can lead to more individualized attention and support for students. When assessing schools, consider the average class size and student-teacher ratio to ensure a conducive learning environment.

School culture and community

A school's culture and community can significantly impact students' experience and well-being. Visit the school, talk to teachers, staff, and other parents, and try to get a feel for the overall atmosphere and values that the school promotes.

Illustration of teachers meeting in a classroom.
Illustration of Teachers Meeting

What Teachers Think About School Ratings

Teachers and school administrators play a crucial role in providing quality education to students. When it comes to school ratings, their opinions and perspectives are essential to understand the impact of these ratings on schools, students, and the education system as a whole. Many teachers and school administrators view school ratings with mixed feelings. While they understand the importance of these ratings for parents and students, they also believe that the current methodologies oversimplify the complexity of education and create undue pressure on schools to improve their scores.

According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), 67% of school leaders believe that school ratings do not accurately reflect the quality of their school. The survey also found that school leaders are concerned about the negative consequences of relying solely on ratings, such as increasing competition among schools and the potential for schools to narrow their curriculum and teaching strategies to improve ratings.

"School ratings are important, but they should not be the only factor in evaluating a school," says Dr. L. Earl Franks, CEO of the NASSP. "We need a more comprehensive approach to evaluate schools that consider the whole child and their diverse needs and learning styles."

Similarly, many teachers believe that school ratings do not accurately depict the quality of education their schools provide. "School ratings can be misleading," says Amy Gibson, an English teacher at a public high school in Illinois. "Factors outside the control of teachers and students, such as socio-economic status or district funding, may impact a school's rating."

Furthermore, some teachers argue that school ratings put undue pressure on schools to narrow their curriculum and teaching strategies to improve ratings rather than focusing on providing a well-rounded education that meets the needs of all students. "Schools should not be judged solely on their test scores," says Erin Golding, a middle school science teacher in New York. "We need to consider the social-emotional needs of students, provide a diverse range of extracurricular opportunities, and foster a positive school culture that promotes student engagement and success."

Research also shows that school ratings can exacerbate existing inequalities in education. A study by researchers at the University of Southern California found that schools with lower ratings often have a higher proportion of students from low-income families and students of color. These schools may face greater challenges in providing quality education, and their ratings may not accurately reflect their teachers' and staff's efforts and dedication. "School ratings can perpetuate inequities and biases in education," says Dr. Pedro Noguera, Dean of the Rossier School of Education at USC. "We need to evaluate schools using a more holistic approach that considers the unique needs and challenges of each school and community."

In conclusion, while school ratings can provide valuable insights into a school's performance, they should not be the sole factor in evaluating the quality of education a school provides. Teachers and school administrators view school ratings with mixed feelings, recognizing their importance for parents and students but also concerned about the limitations of current methodologies and the negative consequences of over-relying on ratings. To ensure that all students receive a high-quality education, we must consider a more comprehensive approach that considers each school and community's unique needs and challenges.

Frequently Asked Questions on School Ratings:

How are schools rated?

As mentioned earlier, different organizations use distinct methodologies and factors to calculate school ratings. Most ratings consider standardized test scores, graduation rates, student-teacher ratios, and other school-related criteria.

What is the #1 educated state?

As of my knowledge cutoff date in September 2021, Massachusetts was considered the most educated state in the United States, according to various studies and rankings.

What is the #1 least educated state?

As of my knowledge cutoff date in September 2021, Mississippi was often ranked as the least-educated state in the United States based on various studies and rankings.


In conclusion, while school ratings are a valuable tool for evaluating schools, they should not be the sole factor in your decision-making process. Consider the limitations of ratings and other essential factors, such as curriculum, extracurricular activities, class size, and school culture, when choosing a school that best meets your child's needs and goals.

As you navigate the school ratings and education world, remember the resources available at for additional support and guidance.

This article was written by K-12 Clothing. Founded by a PTA Dad, K-12 Clothing offers a wide range of spirit wear, team gear, and staff apparel to help foster a sense of community and pride in your child's school. With no minimum order requirements and direct shipping to parents, K-12 Clothing makes supporting your school community easy.



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