School Ratings


To offer recommendations that can strengthen the reliability and accuracy of school ratings and ensure that school data are used to improve, not to punish.


As interest in school accountability has increased, policymakers, legislators, and corporate leaders have determined that school ratings are an effective and necessary tool for parents, students, and other stakeholders to determine whether schools are performing to expectations. And those rating have only proliferated since schools have been required to publish report cards for the public. Some ratings rely on a single criterion, while others employ more complicated scales. In either case, consumers should approach school ratings with a healthy skepticism, particularly since we do not currently have national standards.

NASSP Guiding Principles

  • School ratings often represent a snapshot in time, which may not be an accurate assessment of a school over time.
  • School ratings should include the most complete information available and should not be limited to any one statistic or benchmark, such as test scores.
  • School ratings are useful only insofar as they help determine what resources and changes are necessary to help improve student performance.


Creators of school ratings should:

  • Ensure that any and all information used to assess schools is accurate and reliable.
  • Provide a complete picture of a school’s ability to deliver quality services by including multiple indicators of school progress (e.g., percentage of graduates attending college, average teacher salaries, class-size ratio, and percentages of underserved populations enrolled in AP and IB courses).
  • Include categories in every school-based assessment that reflect the infrastructure and resources available to that school, such as funding levels, admission criteria and process, and teacher certification levels.
  • Provide school-based longitudinal data to identify improvement or weakening of a school’s performance.
  • Avoid ranking schools from best to worst based on academic achievement. Such rankings give an impression of a wide disparity in achievement where one might not exist.

Policymakers should:

  • Use ratings as diagnostic tools to identify areas of need and focus resources and assistance where required.
  • Avoid negative labels, such as “failing,” when schools miss a benchmark but are actually making progress.
  • Use school data to improve, not punish, low-performing schools.
  • Appropriately fund data collection systems that educators can use for instructional purposes.

School leaders should:

  • Educate their local communities about school ratings, and what can and cannot be reasonably concluded from the data.
  • Exercise discretion in providing school data to developers of school ratings and reserve the right to decline requests if the ratings fail to meet the criteria outlined above.


America’s Best High Schools 2009. U.S. News &World Report. Retrieved from

GreatSchools. \[Web site\]

Guskey, T., &Kifer, E. (1989). Ranking school districts on the basis of statewide test results: Is it meaningful or misleading? San Francisco, CA: Presented at the Annual

Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Retrieved April 13, 2009, from

Watts, J. (2000). Getting results with accountability: Rating schools, assisting schools, improving schools. Retrieved April 9, 2009, from


Adopted July 12, 2001
Revised May 9, 2009