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GreatSchools ratings help parents understand school data.

California is the first state in the nation to get enhanced school ratings from GreatSchools, an Oakland-based nonprofit.

The improved ratings now include course access, student progress and equity — which are intended to help parents choose schools, advocate to improve them and support their children’s education.

Those measures are in addition to test scores and other data that was previously included in school profiles on the group’s website.

“We believe schools must serve the needs of every child, in every community, and we know that parents play an enormous role in ensuring this happens,” said Matthew Nelson, president of GreatSchools. “We hope our new rating system and school profiles will further enable parents to be strong advocates for their children — and all children in their communities — to help all kids have a shot at success.”

The ratings include many of the same indicators included in the California School Dashboard, which the state unveiled earlier this year, including standardized test scores and breakdowns of data by race and ethnicity.

Courtesy of GreatSchools

Example of GreatSchools High School profile.

After identifying a school’s strengths and weaknesses, parents can find tips for discussing these issues with educators on the site. Other resources for parents of students in grades preschool through high school are also available, such as news articles, videos, newsletters aimed at specific grade levels, and interactive tools related to children’s academic and social-emotional development.

“GreatSchools’ valuable information can equip parents to not only support their own children, but also have a seat at the table when it comes to improving their schools and communities,” said Sierra Jenkins, vice president of the San Francisco Bay Area-based Innovate Public Schools nonprofit.

San Francisco parent Lee Hsu said he uses the ratings to compare the educational opportunities his son is getting to those of other students at his school, such as access to advanced courses.

“The GreatSchools ratings and profiles help me understand that — and how I can help both my son and his school be successful,” he said.

By early November, GreatSchools expects to launch ratings for schools in the other 49 states and the District of Columbia, said spokeswoman Carrie Goux.

“We don’t rank schools,” she said, noting that the GreatSchools system assigns numbers from a low of 1 to a high of 10 in several different categories, based on data provided by individual states.

The company has been refining its rating system for the past 18 years, after starting off as a Silicon Valley school finder, Goux said. The requirement for new accountability metrics in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, is expected to provide new data that will be added in the future.

“We’ve done a lot of user testing and we get constant feedback from parents who find it valuable to look beyond test scores to have this nuanced view of a school,” Goux said. “People appreciate that because a school is multifaceted and there’s a lot going on behind the doors when your child walks into it.”

The organization also partners with realtors to offer information about housing around schools, Goux said.

“When you’re making a big life decision — like where you’re going to move — one of the biggest considerations is which school to choose,” she said. “I recently moved and I was a power user.”

GreatSchools plans to incorporate new 2017 standardized test scores — expected to be released by California in the next few weeks — into its profiles as soon as possible, she said, adding that it will likely take at least two weeks to update the site.

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  1. Don 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    I understand that unsophisticated consumers of the former API did not look at the breakdowns behind the one number and, in that regard, a change was sorely needed. As this articles refers to parents in the title, as a parent I find the new dashboard, and any analysis of a school based upon it, of little value, the reason being that there is one overriding factor that is missing from the melange of metrics: … Read More

    I understand that unsophisticated consumers of the former API did not look at the breakdowns behind the one number and, in that regard, a change was sorely needed. As this articles refers to parents in the title, as a parent I find the new dashboard, and any analysis of a school based upon it, of little value, the reason being that there is one overriding factor that is missing from the melange of metrics: teacher quality. Every year when my son is assigned his teachers I hope and pray that he doesn’t get a dud and many many years I have been disappointed. I’d say the teacher assignment is at least 90% of what concerns me as a parent. !0% is divided between several lesser concerns. That’s because none of the others matter much if the teacher is unable to do the job to a professional standard.
    So the SBE can debate the dashboard and the meaning of effectiveness ad infinitum, but anything they produce is worthless for this parent until they acknowledge by their actions the primacy of teaching quality as it pertains to academic performance and school improvement. Any analysis by Great Schools is derivitive and likewise of little value, too.

  2. E O Eastland 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Agreed...Not great. Shame on EdSource for endorsing yet another regurgitation of state data and perpetuation of housing discrimination. Further...the sites promote worksheets? Really? How about promoting what the a-g courses actually are? Add notations on the year of the source data. Write an algorithm that will show schools that are outperforming their expected outcomes and are equitable amongst student groups, especially discipline which the adults greatly influence. How about some trend data ... even … Read More

    Agreed…Not great. Shame on EdSource for endorsing yet another regurgitation of state data and perpetuation of housing discrimination. Further…the sites promote worksheets? Really? How about promoting what the a-g courses actually are? Add notations on the year of the source data. Write an algorithm that will show schools that are outperforming their expected outcomes and are equitable amongst student groups, especially discipline which the adults greatly influence. How about some trend data … even the state dashboard incorporates that now.

    Edsource – very disappointing. GreatSchools – aim to be truly great.

  3. Wayne Bishop 1 month ago1 month ago

    The unfortunate truth is that Great Schools is anything but a great site for useful information to interested parents and observers and especially the interpretation thereof. For example, it has my local Pasadena HS above average for college readiness. SAT scores 26 points below the state average and math scores also below? PHS once was well above average for college readiness and still should be but it is not. The worst … Read More

    The unfortunate truth is that Great Schools is anything but a great site for useful information to interested parents and observers and especially the interpretation thereof. For example, it has my local Pasadena HS above average for college readiness. SAT scores 26 points below the state average and math scores also below? PHS once was well above average for college readiness and still should be but it is not. The worst part of the article is Great Schools’ blessing of the state’s new mishmash assessments. The combination of the CST, STAR, and API made a far more meaningful and easily understood school assessment.