Home Schooling:

Do School Rankings Have any Useful Purpose:

This is an interesting question. When school rankings are published, teachers, administrators, parents, and students are all interested in how "their" school performed. If you were a student, you would probably rather be known for your academic achievements at an institution that scored well in the school rankings as opposed to being the best student at one of the schools at the bottom of the list. That is perfectly understandable.

When school rankings are assembled, they take into account the results from standardized tests. It can be argued that most students should be able to take this test and pass it, and that the test should accurately reflect a student's abilities. Winners and Losers in School Rankings The school rankings also indicate something about the socioeconomic conditions for that student body.

The fact is that the percentage of students receiving a free or subsidized lunch is included on the list. While I'm sure it is not the intent of those assembling the school ranking list to imply that students who live in some areas are not as capable of learning, the numbers do seem to give that impression. Living in an area where income levels are higher doesn't necessarily mean that a student will achieve academic success, and the school rankings shouldn't be leaving the reader with that impression.

If a student is living in a home where there are financial issues, abuse (drugs, alcohol, physical, or sexual), or the parents are not interested or available to help them with school work, then this creates a barrier to them achieving their academic goals. These issues are not limited to lower income level homes, and the school rankings seem to imply that a student who qualifies for a subsidized meal will automatically be less able to learn.

A Change Needed in Testing to Determine School Rankings If we want to get a good idea about how schools (and teachers) are really performing, let's change the testing policy used to determine school rankings. Instead of having the school rankings based on a test on one day (which only provides a snapshot of the students' progress), let's test the students at the beginning of the school year and again at the end to measure how much they have improved over the course of the school year.

The amount of learning progress the students have made throughout the school year is a better measure of how well the schools are performing, and school rankings don't reflect this under the present system. If you are going to look at school rankings, be aware of what they are measuring and what information they don't provide. You will have to decide for yourself whether these findings are relevant and whether they serve any useful purpose.

About the Author : Patricia Hawke is a staff writer for Schools K-12, providing free, in-depth reports on all U.S. public and private K-12 schools. For more information please visit School Rankings

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