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 that all students receive a quality education. We believe that every parent — regardless of where they live or how much money they make — needs reliable information in order to ensure their child is being served by their school. On our profiles, we strive to display a variety of indicators of school quality to provide a well-rounded picture of how effectively each school serves all of its students. Our ratings are intended to provide a better understanding of school quality and to help parents 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 a more in-depth picture of school quality nationwide and allows us to improve our school profiles and ratings.
Our new approach to ratings
In the past, the overall GreatSchools Rating in most states was based on test scores. In some states*, the GreatSchools Rating was also based on student progress (or “growth”) and college readiness data (SAT/ACT participation and/or 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 a school supports students from different socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic groups, and whether or not 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: Some states do not have sufficient information to generate a Summary Rating (Alaska, Arizona, Maine, North Dakota, South Dakota and Vermont). In these states, we default to the school’s Test Score Rating as the overall rating displayed at the top of the profile.
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 (1-4) signal that the school is “below average,” 5-6 indicate “average,” and 7-10 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.
*AR, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IN, KY, LA, MA, MI, MN, MS, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SD, TN, TX, UT, WA, WI, WY
How do our ratings work?
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 four of the school’s themed ratings (the Test Score Rating, Student or Academic Progress Rating, College Readiness Rating, and Equity 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.
The Test Score Rating measures schools on proficiency, using performance (the percentage 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. A school’s overall Test Score Ratings is 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.
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.
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 calculation. When student growth data does become publicly available in these states, we will replace the Academic Progress Rating with a Student Progress 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 performance) and/or advanced course enrollment and exam performance. This rating only applies to schools with high school grades. To better address the interests of our users and to fully utilize the data available nationally we have updated our methodology and retired the Advanced Courses Rating. Information about enrollment in advanced courses - specifically Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Dual Enrollment courses - is now analyzed and included in the College Readiness Rating. Our updated data and methodology now also incorporate enrollment in International Baccalaureate and Dual Enrollment courses along with Advanced Placement enrollment and exam passing rates.
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 all 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.
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.
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 racial/ethnic 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.
Summary Rating inputs and weights
The Summary Rating calculation is based on up to five of the school’s themed ratings/flags, which are described above. Components included within a school’s rating can vary based on data availability. For example, college readiness measures like Advanced Placement classes and college entrance exams are available in most high schools but not elementary or middle schools, and student or academic progress data that looks at year-over-year progress may be less likely to be available in a high school where state standardized tests are only given in one grade.
To calculate the Summary Rating, we use weights for each rating/flag based on the available data, the amount of information available about the school relative to other schools in the state, the amount of variability in the data, and the extent to which each data point has been proven to be related to student success in college and for long-term life outcomes.
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.
You can see more advanced details about the methodology here.