But how do you know if Jones Elementary really is better than Smith School? You can ask the real estate agent. Or call the school. Or chat with your future neighbors. But none is likely to give you the objective analysis provided by a new Web site, www.schoolmatters.com.
Creators of the new site, including the venerable Standard & Poor’s data analysis company, have collected an amazing array of statistics and performance data about every local school in the country. On this site, it’s possible to look at an individual school’s performance by racial groups, compare schools across a district by class size or find out per-student spending levels across the state.
Say, for example, you’re considering moving to west suburban Addison and have narrowed your search to three houses. Each house has a different neighborhood school. It’s possible (after watching the helpful five-minute tutorial) to set up a chart comparing the schools by enrollment, student-teacher ratio and racial makeup and find out whether the schools are making “adequate yearly progress” under national No Child Left Behind standards.
Once you decide on a school—or to check out the school your kids already attend—click on the name for a lengthy list of more information, ranging from the school’s performance on standardized reading and math tests to general information about the community, such as median household income and median home values.
We asked Ralph Martire, a self-described “wonk” who crunches lots of education stats in his job as executive director of the Chicago-based Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, to take a look at the site. He pronounces it full of useful information for parents (as well as wonks like him), but warns that some parts are thick with jargon that us non-wonks may have trouble deciphering.
The free site is the creation of the Education Data Partnership, a collaboration between the Council of Chief State School Officers, Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services, Achieve and the CELT Corp. It is funded by The Broad Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.