There’s no doubt about it: Schools around the country are working hard in the midst of increasingly complex obstacles. That’s why we’ve designed GreatSchools’ Summary Rating to give the most nuanced picture of school quality that available data allows. And wherever possible, we strive to highlight successful schools. If your school’s rating went up recently, that’s good news. But you may be wondering why.

The answer is one of two reasons. Either your school’s data showed improvement in one or more of the areas we use to calculate our rating, or recent changes to our methodology caused your school’s rating to rise. Let’s take these one at a time.

1. Your school data showed improvement.

Our Summary Rating is calculated by combining something we call themed ratings, each of which reflect a different aspect of school quality. These ratings may vary from school to school based on data availability and school level. For example, high schools have a College Readiness Rating, while elementary schools don’t. These ratings are updated as new data becomes available, which in turn may cause the school’s Summary Rating to change. You can find details about data used for your school’s ratings on the school profile linked to “Sources.”

Bottom line: If your school’s Summary Rating went up, it could be because updated data caused one or more of the ratings described below to go up.

Student/Academic Progress Rating

Increasing evidence suggests that rather than just looking at end-of-year test scores, measuring student progress (also called student growth) is a more accurate way to see how much a school is helping students learn. Student progress measures whether students at a school are making academic progress over time, based on the change in their state test scores from one year to the next. The higher the growth rating, the more students are learning in tested subjects—regardless of where they started. You can read more about why growth data is so important, here.

Bottom line: If your school’s Student/Academic Progress Rating went up, this probably affected your school’s Summary Rating.

Equity Rating

The Equity Rating is designed to measure how well a school serves disadvantaged student groups. The rating includes two kinds of data:

1. How underserved students are doing academically, compared to state averages for all students, based on student progress (growth), state test scores and college readiness in the case of high schools and
2. Gaps between how a school’s underserved student groups do academically and its student body as a whole.

This shows how well the school is educating disadvantaged students compared to non-disadvantaged students at this school, and how that compares with other schools in the state. You can read more about our Equity Rating here.

Bottom line: If your school’s Equity Rating went up, this probably affected your school’s Summary Rating.

Test Score Rating

This rating uses performance on state tests (the percentage of students scoring at or above proficiency) across grades and subjects, compared to other schools in the state. Test Score Ratings are displayed in the “Academics” section on school profile pages and are broken out by student group (race/ethnicity and family income) in the “Equity” section. This rating is an important factor in understanding school quality because it helps reflect how well students are meeting the academic expectations set by each state.

Bottom line: If your school’s Test Score Rating went down, this probably affected your school’s summary rating.

College Readiness Rating

This rating is designed to measure how well a high school is preparing students for success in college and career, compared to other high schools in the state. We calculate it based on high school graduation rates, college entrance exam scores, participation in advanced courses such as AP, IB and dual enrollment classes, and AP test scores.

Bottom line: If your school’s College Readiness Rating went up, this probably affected your school’s Summary Rating.

2. We revised our methodology and that changed your school’s rating

We recently revised the way we calculate a school’s Summary Rating. First, we increased the amount of information that we use in our Equity Rating to include measures of student progress (growth) and college readiness, where available. This makes the Equity Rating a better reflection of how well a school is serving its most disadvantaged students.

Second, we changed the way we calculate a school’s Summary Rating. We now emphasize student progress (growth) metrics the most, because they reflect how much progress students are making in a year, not how prepared they were when they arrived at the school. We now give equal or lesser weight to equity, college readiness and test scores, depending on available data.

Bottom line: The change in our methodology could explain your school’s ratings bump if the school has high equity and growth scores (especially relative to test scores).

Next steps for parents

To learn more about what your school’s data shows, explore the Academic, Progress, and Equity sections of your school’s profile page. If you think there’s still room for improvement, here’s how to check how your school compares to other schools near you, and here are five questions to ask your school principal.

Next steps for for school leaders

In a word, congratulations! Your school’s rating going up means that your hard work is moving the needle in terms of student outcomes. Consider sharing the details of your school’s rating with your community to highlight the work that you and your team are doing.

This is part of a series on our new 2020 ratings. Other stories include:

Why equity matters in school quality
No matter who your child is, how a school serves students from underserved communities is an important factor in understanding the school’s overall quality.

Why student growth matters in school quality
Here’s the lowdown on why growth data is such an important way to measure a school’s quality.

Why did my school’s rating go down?
You may have noticed that your school’s rating has dropped recently. There are two possible reasons for the change.

Read more about GreatSchools’ rating system.