Ask parents to name an area that concerns them relating to their kids and the topic they will mention above most everything else is education. There are certainly other topics of concern, but due to its critical role in preparing young people for the future, education is often listed first. One way to size up different schools and discover which ones have better ratings, test scores, facilities, etc. is to consult the internet and a very useful web site designed for this purpose is Greatschools.org.
What Can I Find in this Web Site?:
Greatschools.org is an online resource for finding academic information and reviews of schools, including public schools, private schools, charter schools, and preschools. By entering a school name, district or city, or by entering an address and searching by distance, a concerned parent can compare and contrast different schools in an area. Some of the easily accessible information includes:
Test scores: Great Schools lets parents see the standardized test scores for each of the past five years, sorted by grade, in areas such as Reading, Math, Science, Writing, and Social Studies. By viewing the past five years, parents can quickly see if the school is making progress or falling behind. The site also shows the state average for comparison purposes.
Great Schools Rating: Based on the official standardized test scores and other factors, Greatschools.com rates the school on a scale of 1 to 10.
Reviews from Individuals: In this section, parents and others can post their own review of a school and rate it using a five- star scale.
Community: This is a message board. Members can go to this area and read questions and answers or post a question/comment of their own.
Greatschools.org is more than just a web service for looking up test results and other official data. The site also offers information on health and behavior, extracurricular activities, homework help, learning difficulties, etc. There is even a section in the site that provides worksheets and activities as well as advice on ways to improve your school.
Do I Have to Sign up for Anything?:
If you want to utilize specific services such as setting up a school reference list or receiving newsletters and tips, then you will need to establish an account first. Looking up data on the different schools, however, requires no special setup. Just logon to the site and you are ready to go.
Education is an important concern for many parents and Greatschools.org is a useful resource for school comparisons and other educational information. Parents may be surprised when they find out how their child’s school measures up against others in the area and the information obtained may inspire some parents to take action.
Greatschools.org is useful in many ways, but there are also some limitations. First, the private school information is somewhat lacking. Reviews are available for all to read, but private schools do not have to disclose their test results and among those I have inquired on, through this service, I have yet to find test results from any one of them. Second, depending on parent and student activity in the site, your particular school may not have any reviews. It could be up to you to supply the first written assessment and rating of your child’s school.
Reading the reviews of the different schools is interesting because the parents and students are often very open and candid. However, one must not take every review completely seriously. A review could be from someone who is a disgruntled student or a parent who had a negative encounter with a particular teacher. When things like this happen, people are likely to take out their frustration by rating the school with only one star. Also, be wary of reviews written many years ago. If a review is critical or praiseworthy of, say, the school principal but it was written several years ago, it may no longer be valid.
Education is very important in an increasingly competitive nation and many parents are rightfully concerned that their school may not be educating at an effective level. Greatschools.org is a very handy resource for finding out more about schools across the United States and it can often prove quite eye- opening with its assessments and official information. It is a useful web site that any concerned parent should visit.
Copyright 2012, Bryan Carey