New Site Compares Schools Across the Country

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Parents can now compare schools' performance records at a local, district, state, and national level with the newly launched Education Scorecard. One of the noteworthy features of the site, created by GreatSchools and NBC, is its comparison of school performance to federal test scores, which at times highlights the disparities between state standards and those set by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

By showing the percentage of students who pass state standardized tests in math and language arts, in, for example, Oakland, Calif., compared to Oakland Unified School District, to the state of California, and to the NAEP exam, parents can assess for themselves how each school stacks up to other schools in the country.

Here's why that's important, as explained on the site:

State assessments are different from the NAEP. Each state determines its own definition of proficiency, whereas the NAEP's definition is the same across the country. The national definition of proficiency is more rigorous than most states' definitions.

The site, which was announced at Education Nation conference Monday, also shows whether the state is one of 35 states that has complied with Common Core Standards, which calls for uniform standards across the country; high school graduation requirements; and a comprehensive link to how to use the data.


Once they're armed with the information, parents are prompted to ask questions -- lots of them -- on a range of topics, from what's the gap from national to state results, to what districts are doing to make sure teachers are effective.

What's the objective? I asked Bill Jackson, founder and CEO of GreatSchools.

"We want to provide parents and the public with a high-level picture of how schools, states, districts and the country are doing," he said. "It's a tool for parents to be informed. The goal is to make sure kids are on track to be able to go to college and to compete for better jobs. That’s the kind of realism we need. It's setting our expectations on a higher level."

Jackson sited the state of Tennessee as an example of one that might benefit from Scorecard. "Until recently, it had a highly inflated view of their achievements," he said.Their "inflated" state scores were not a realistic reflection of school performance when placed in the context of federal test scores.

"We hope that other states have a really good discussion about that, too" Jackson said. "I don’t think it serves anybody if there’s too much wishful thinking."

In the coming weeks, I'll check in with a variety of sources -- parents, administrators, and teachers -- to see how the site will affect their decision-making process.

Other partners in the Education Nation Scorecard project include Achieve, the Alliance for Excellent Education, Education Week, the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA), and other education data thought leaders.