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About GreatSchools’ ratings

As an independent nonprofit, our mission at GreatSchools is to help all parents get a great education for their children, and for communities to ensure their children receive a quality education. We believe that every parent—regardless of where they live or how much money they make—needs good information about schools in order to ensure their child is being served by his or her school. On our profiles we strive to display a variety of indicators of school quality to provide a helpful picture of how effectively each school serves all of its students. Our ratings are intended to provide a better understanding of school quality and help you compare schools within the same state.

We are constantly working with state and national agencies to acquire more representative school data in every state. This helps us provide more in-depth understanding of school quality nationwide and allows us to improve upon our school ratings.

Our new approach to ratings

In the past, GreatSchools’ overall rating in most states was based on test scores, and in some states* also on student progress (or “growth”) and college readiness data (SAT/ACT performance and/or graduation rates). Our school profiles now include important information in addition to test scores—factors that make a big difference in how children experience school, such as how much a school helps students improve academically, how well it supports students from different socioeconomic, racial and ethnic groups, and whether some groups of students are disproportionately affected by the school’s discipline and attendance policies. Many of these important themes now have their own rating, and these themed ratings are incorporated into the school’s overall GreatSchools Summary Rating.

Note: our new Summary Rating is currently live in California only. We are working to update the Summary Rating nationwide, and will refresh current ratings with the new Summary Rating in states outside of California in early November.

GreatSchools ratings follow a 1-10 scale, where 10 is the highest and 1 is the lowest. Ratings at the lower end of the scale (1-3) signal that the school is “below average,” 4-7 indicate “average,” and 8-10 are “above average.” Each rating has its own color corresponding to this scale, ranging from green (10) to yellow to orange (1) to help you see the distinctions.

*TX, FL, NY, GA, IL, NJ, NC, MI, OH, MA, CO, IN, WI, KY, OK, HI, DE and DC

How do our ratings work?

Summary Rating

The GreatSchools Summary Rating appears at the top of a school’s profile and provides an overall snapshot of school quality based on how well a school prepares all its students for postsecondary success—college or career. The Summary Rating calculation is based on five of the school’s themed ratings (the Test Score Rating, Student or Academic Progress Rating, College Readiness Rating, Equity Rating and Advanced Courses Rating) and “flags” for discipline and attendance disparities at a school. The ratings we display for each school can vary based on data availability or relevance to a school level (for example, high schools will have a College Readiness Rating, but elementary schools will not). We will not produce a Summary Rating for a school if we lack sufficient data to calculate one. For more about how this rating is calculated, see the “Summary Rating inputs & weights” section below.

For more information about how we calculate this rating, see the GreatSchools Ratings methodology report.

Test Score Rating

The Test Score Rating measures schools on proficiency, using performance (the percent of students scoring at or above proficiency) on state assessments across grades and subjects, compared to other schools in the state, to produce a 1-10 rating for each school. This school’s overall Test Score Ratings are displayed in the “Academics” section on school profiles, and broken out by student subgroup (race/ethnicity and low-income) in the “Equity” section. This rating is an important factor in understanding school quality because it measures whether or not students are meeting academic standards.

For more information about how we calculate this rating, see the GreatSchools Ratings methodology report.

Student Progress Rating

The Student Progress Rating (also known as “growth”) measures whether students at a school are making academic progress over time. Specifically, the Student Progress Rating looks at how much progress individual students have made on reading and math assessments during the past year or more, how this performance aligns with expected progress based on a student growth model established by the state Department of Education, and how this school’s growth data compares to other schools in the state. This data is less common for high schools, which in many states do not take state standardized tests in more than one grade. It is also important to note that it is possible for schools with already-high-performing students to receive a high Student Progress Rating, or for schools with high test scores to receive a low Student Progress Rating. The key advantage of growth is that it’s less correlated with socioeconomic background than proficiency. The goal of the Student Progress Rating is to provide transparency into schools that are improving student outcomes regardless of the student’s starting point in terms of academic achievement.

For more information about how we calculate this rating, see the GreatSchools Ratings methodology report.

Academic Progress Rating

The Academic Progress Rating displays in states that do not provide publicly available growth data, which means we cannot provide a Student Progress Rating. In these states, we instead provide an Academic Progress Rating, which is a growth proxy rating based on a model using unmatched cohorts, or school-level data instead of student-level data. This data is less common for high schools, which in many states do not take state standardized tests in more than one grade in high school, making it difficult to look at grade-to-grade improvement in test scores. Because this metric is less precise than the Student Progress Rating, which uses growth data provided by the state Departments of Education, we have given it a lesser weighting in the Summary Rating. When student growth data does become publicly available in these states, we will replace the Academic Progress Rating with a Student Progress Rating.

For more information about how we calculate this rating, see the GreatSchools Ratings methodology report.

College Readiness Rating

The College Readiness Rating measures how well high schools prepare their students for success in college and career, compared to other schools in the state. The rating is based on the high school’s graduation rate, data about college entrance exams (SAT/ACT participation and performance) and/or Advanced Placement exam participation and performance. This rating only applies to schools with high school grades.

For more information about how we calculate this rating, see the GreatSchools Ratings methodology report.

Advanced Courses Rating

The Advanced Courses Rating compares the academic rigor of a school based on student enrollment in advanced courses, taking into account not only the number of advanced courses a school offers, but how effective the school is in enrolling students in those courses. The rating compares a school’s average advanced course-taking rates in four academic subject categories—English; Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM); Social Sciences; and Foreign Languages—to the state average. Using course-level enrollment data from the state Department of Education for those courses identified as “advanced,” we produce a 1 (low) – 10 (high) rating for each school. If a school does not offer any advanced courses in one of the four rated subject areas, that subject will receive a “1” rating. This rating is primarily used at the high school level, although some middle schools that offer high school level coursework to their 7th and 8th grade students may also have a rating. Elementary schools will not have this rating as advanced courses are rarely made available to elementary school-age students. In some states, advanced courses data is not available, and we cannot produce this rating.

For more information about how we calculate this rating, see the GreatSchools Ratings methodology report.

Equity Rating

The Equity Rating measures how well a school serves the academic development of all students, looking specifically at: 1) the performance level of disadvantaged students on state tests in comparison to the state average for disadvantaged students, and 2) in-school performance gaps between disadvantaged students and other students. We define disadvantaged students as those students who comprise racial/ethnic and economic subgroups that show persistent gaps across schools, subgroup pairs, grades, and subjects within the state. This allows us to understand how well the school is educating disadvantaged student groups compared to the state average for those students, and how those students are performing compared to non-disadvantaged students this school, factoring in both the achievement level and the performance gaps. A low rating (1 – 3) may indicate some student groups are not getting the support they need at the school, while a high rating (8 – 10) may indicate a school is effectively closing achievement gaps.

When the population of a student group is too small to provide reliable data (less than 5% of the total student body), that student group is not reflected in this section. As a result, some groups may not be included in some charts within this section.

Some schools do not have a large enough population of disadvantaged students to calculate an Equity Rating (homogeneous schools). These schools are instead given the average Equity Rating for schools with the same Test Score Rating. This estimate, called the Equity adjustment factor, allows for the Summary Ratings of schools with and without Equity Ratings to be more easily comparable.

For more information about how we calculate this rating, see the GreatSchools Ratings methodology report.

Low-income Rating

The Low-income Rating looks at state test scores for students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch compared to all students in the state. We display the Low-income Rating on profiles to make it easier for parents to understand how well schools serve students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Note: the low-income student performance data is a component of the school’s Equity Rating, so it does not display as a stand-alone rating within the school’s Summary Rating breakdown.

Discipline and attendance flags

The discipline and attendance flags are indicators GreatSchools uses to identify schools with worrisome patterns of out-of-school suspensions and chronic absenteeism in their student body. Creating these flags involve two primary steps: identifying schools with high rates of suspension or absenteeism, and identifying schools with significant differences in suspension or chronic absenteeism rates between race/ethnicity student groups. A flag appears in a school’s “Equity” section, within the “Discipline & attendance” toggle view of the “Race/ethnicity” section, when these conditions are present.

For more information about how we calculate this rating, see the GreatSchools Ratings methodology report.

Summary Rating inputs and weights

To determine the weighting of each component of the Summary Rating, we followed an approach that is:

While weightings can vary by school/state based on these factors, the inputs to the Summary Rating are prioritized and weighted as follows:

In states where we have student progress (or “growth”) data, the Summary Rating inputs are prioritized as follows (from highest to lowest weighting):

In states where we do not have student progress (or “growth”) data, the Summary Rating inputs are prioritized and weighted as follows (from highest to lowest weighting):

These charts provide representative examples of how a school’s ratings across different themes are weighted to comprise the overall Summary Rating:

Summary Rating Weights

A snapshot of a school’s Summary Rating composition and weights can be found by clicking on the rating at the top of the profile. Inputs to the Summary Rating are school and state-specific, depending on data availability. Each of the ratings (and flags) that comprise the Summary Rating may be refreshed as new data becomes available, which in turn may cause the school’s Summary Rating to change. These changes may happen at different times throughout the course of a year. To see when underlying data was updated, click on the “Sources” information for each rating and flag.Note: rounding of percentages may cause some Summary Rating weights to exceed 100%.

Greater data transparency

At GreatSchools we believe that transparency builds trust. We believe that government education agencies have an obligation to make data on school quality available to parents and the public. Every parent should feel informed and empowered to unlock educational opportunities for their child regardless of their family background or zip code. That’s why in recent years, GreatSchools has expanded data collection efforts in every state to include various types of school quality data broken down by student groups, including students from low-income families, diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, and students with disabilities. These additional data (where available) are now part of GreatSchools school profiles and provide a more complete picture of how effectively a school serves all of its students.

Data transparency helps parents know how schools in their community are doing, where there is room for improvement, and what the best options are for their children. Sharing school information—good and bad—also cultivates parent engagement and trust. Additionally, it’s important that school data be made available in accessible, easy-to-use formats so that non-governmental organizations can use the information to inform parents and students about the quality of their local schools.

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