Do school rankings matter?

The newspaper wrote stories this week about three different reports that ranked education programs.

Atlanta Public Schools came in at No. 45 among the nation’s 50 largest cities for its graduation rate. According to the student from the America’s Promise Alliance only 44 percent of Atlanta’s students graduated on time in 2005, compared to the national average of 71 percent.

A study from the National Institute for Early Education Research ranked Georgia’s universal pre-K program as No. 3 in the nation, behind Florida and Oklahoma.

On Thursday U.S. News & World Report released its annual rankings of graduate school programs and Emory, Georgia State, Tech and UGA were well represented.

The lists won’t end there.

Over the summer we’ll have ones showing who has the highest SAT scores, the best CRCT results and the highest percentage of schools meeting federal testing goals.

A lot of time goes into making these lists, but that doesn’t make them useful.

How do you use these rankings? What topics would you like to see ranked?

16 comments Add your comment


April 24th, 2009
9:14 am

Yes, they matter. However, they are often mis-interpreted. Most of these rankings are taken too literally and IMHO they should be taken generally. I don’t think there is certainty that #3 is definitely better than #4 for example. But, #3 is certainly better than #49.

This is kind of like the college football rankings. It is just someone’s opinion based on random “facts” but everyone wants to be highly ranked anyway.

William Casey

April 24th, 2009
10:07 am

Oh my, here we go again! RANKINGS of schools are the creation of the media so that the casual observer can get a clue. You give me the demographics of the school, and I’ll pretty much be able to tell you what the school will be like.

* If you want high academic test scores… Bring in ASIANS by the bus load. This will also help the string section in your band.

* If you want to win in basketball and football… bring in AFRICANS by the bus load.

* Most of all… bring in MONEY to your school. Big piles of money trumps everything else. Sad, but true!

jim d

April 24th, 2009
10:51 am

Well without being a statistician it would be difficult to draw any solid conclusions from these reports. However, the one thing that is abundantly obvious is that something is definitely going south between grades K and 12 in Georgia. Something we might hope would change with CHOICE.

HS Teacher, Too

April 24th, 2009
2:20 pm

Can’t say it any better than Reality, especially as it relates to college/graduate school rankings. And that is not to say that there aren’t things schools can do to manipulate the rankings to some extent.

But, in terms of high schools and other schools, the rankings are even more inherently suspect. That is because when we rank schools based on test scores, the rankings don’t take into account what gets sacrified to achieve those test scores. So, if we’re measuring schools as “good” or “not as good” based on those rankings, we are effectively sacfiricing “everything else” for those test scores. In this sense, I think to my local GCPS elementary and middle schools, because I know from my neighbors that the schools spend weeks sacrificing academics generally, in order to do test prep. Sure, the schools have high test scores and that “ranks” them higher than other schools, but to my mind, the trade-off is not appropriate.

Finally, if we just want to use test scores as a proxy for measuring other intangibles, such as involved, caring parents, an area that cares about academics, etc., then I’ll take the percentage of “free and reduced lunch” as a better indicator of school demographics — and thus area desirability — any day of the week.


April 24th, 2009
2:21 pm

jim d – Here you go again…..

jim d

April 24th, 2009
2:38 pm

jim d

April 24th, 2009
2:44 pm


I try never to miss an opportunity.

“Opportunity is a haughty goddess who wastes no time with those who are unprepared.”

George Clason

HS Teacher, Too

April 24th, 2009
2:57 pm

I am SO FRSUTRATED by this blog. I have lost more comments than I have posted since it changed formats.

Maybe it will show up by Monday.

Have a good weekend, all.

HS Teacher, Too

April 24th, 2009
2:58 pm

And now that one showed up instantly! Aargh!

high school teacher

April 24th, 2009
3:17 pm

Ranking public schools is like awarding someone for being the tallest in his class. There are so many factors over which schools have no control. Universities, on the other hand, can pick and choose (there’s that word again, jim d), who gets in, so I put more stock in those rankings.

high school teacher

April 24th, 2009
3:17 pm


April 24th, 2009
9:08 pm

Americans are infatuated with rankings. “Who’s the best” is reflected in just about every aspect of our culture. Media presentations are built upon the premise. American Idol, Survivor, football, baseball, basketball, golf, NASCAR, Miss America, Miss USA, …….

When it comes to rating schools, the only ratings that seem to get any attention are the bad ones. So, people pick aspects of schooling that are easy to amplify the negative. A few years ago, test scores were important. Now that test scores are improving, another stat has to be brought forward. The graduation rate is the new stick with which schools shall be beat down.

There is plenty of evidence that American schools do quite well and are world class. This, however, does not make news, sell books or reform programs, or get politicians elected. Every ranking must be scrutinized for what it is worth. How were the rankings developed? What criteria were included/excluded? Who conducted the research?

high school teacher is right. Many times it’s like awarding the tallest in the class for being tall.


April 25th, 2009
2:59 am

Calling all AP History/Social studies teachers:
Do you ever cover the Great Depression of 1920? Surprisingly, this is history well worth repeating…


April 25th, 2009
9:00 am

:::: Sigh ::::

Until America can sit down and have a calm, rational discussion about race and IQ and the effects they have on the learning process, we will continue to witness our schools spiral out of control.

However, the politically correct pathology that has maintained it’s stranglehold on America’s public education systems since Brown vs Board will not allow this discussion. The mere mention of race and IQ will result in the predictable wails of “racism.”

The polically correct fiddle while the education systems burn.


April 26th, 2009
3:06 pm


Why would graduation rankings work?

If children are ‘graduated’ who can’t even read and write, how are those figures that we can even look at?

The funniest is that Atlanta Public Schools came in 45/50, even after graduating so many who are 3rd-grade literate at best. My God, if they did NOT graduate those who shouldn’t graduate…….what would they have been???

Graduate many who can barely read and write, and then STILL come in 45/50….that’s sad!

Oh, and that reminds me:

I have a son at Morningside Elementary (Atlanta Public Schools, unfortunately). The CRCTs started Tuesday morning at 8:20am. Guess what? We got a phone call around 6pm that night, telling us that the CRCTs were going to begin that morning. That morning that had passed!

It was a recorded message sent out by a private Missouri firm, paid for by City of Atlanta tax dollars! PLEASE tell me how much of our tax dollars was spent on that phone call, and why it was late!



April 27th, 2009
7:55 am

We all know that these numbers can be used in many different ways. However, as a long time reader to this blog, my guess is that if Georgia were #1 overall in education, many of our imported citizens would think that their school system was better.