Rankings: What are they worth?

Some top school districts (39 to be exact) across the United States have asked Newsweek Magazine not to include them in the magazine’s annual “Top 100” high schools in the country list.  The school superintendents who made the request did so in a letter to the editor, saying, “all schools, communities — and your readers — are poorly served by Newsweek’s persistent efforts to use a single statistic, the number of students who sit for A.P. or I.B. exams, to rank schools.”  Michael V. McGill, superintendent of Scarsdale public schools, supported this move and discusses it in the district’s Spring 2008 newsletter.  What do you think of his (and the other superintendents) decision to remove their districts from the list?   


5 Responses to Rankings: What are they worth?

  1. TheDeeZone says:

    I agree it may be too narrow of criteria to rank schools. Also, I think our society at times seemed to obsessed with rankings.

  2. Karen says:

    I agree that rankings often misrepresent and give misleading assurances about a school. Unfortunately parents want some objective mark that they can use to evaluate their school. In London, it is League Tables. In the US, such rankings are not valid since there is no national curriculum.

  3. findingschools says:

    Rankings only take into account the measurable aspects of an education. How children perform on tests may be an indication of educational quality, or may only reflect the demographic composition of the school, whether or not teachers teach to the test, or many other variables. What is lost when judging a school by rankings are some of the most important aspects of an education such as the relationships between students and teachers. These relationships determine whether children push themselves to learn what may be difficult, take risks and explore new academic and extracurricular subjects, and become all they can be, or opt out.


  4. Anonymous says:

    I wonder if it will bother parents who want to make sure their children are coming from reputable schools when they apply to colleges. But I imagine admissions departments are very aware of these districts, and don’t need to read Newsweek to know about them!

  5. findingschools says:

    Parents who are looking for the best fit for their child, whether in a preschool program, moving neighbourhoods or making an international move, are faced with a difficult and complex task. School rankings can be an interesting starting point in your search but if this is the only source when making a difficult decision then many families could end up being disappointed or frustrated with their choice. I would encourage any family in this situation to consider a variety of school options, include their children when possible in school visits and enter each school with an open attitude. There are so many factors to consider and each family will have to set their own priorities. Is the class size important to a learner who is easily distracted? Is diversity within the student population an important consideration? What was your first impression with school staff during your visit including the school head? Is the head staying?
    Whether researching schools yourself or with the help of friends and professionals, becoming a well-informed parent is key to a successful search for a school that will support the strengths and learning needs of your child, not a narrow ranking system.
    Judy Carlton

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