New Report Examines School Quality Rating Systems

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a new review of 25 school quality rating systems, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools considers the trends in systems around the country. Federal law requires states to assess the quality of their public schools and report the results to parents, but allows each state to create its own quality-assessment program and labels—leading to wide variety.


Quality School Ratings: Trends in Evaluating School Academic Quality, written by Lyria Boast and Tim Field of Public Impact, reviews rating systems used by state departments of education, large public school districts, charter school associations and authorizers, and private news and advocacy organizations, and explains what criteria each of the ratings takes into account.


“Before we can ensure all children have access to a high-quality public  school, we have to know which schools are high quality,” said National Alliance President and CEO Nina Rees. “This report helps us understand how state governments and private organizations, like the annual U.S. News & World Report ‘Best High Schools in America list,’ determine which schools are high quality. It also gives us an important foundation from which to build future quality rating systems so parents, educators, and policymakers are given the information they need.”


The report highlights several key trends in the design and implementation of quality rating systems:

  • Measuring student achievement growth. Evaluating student achievement growth, not just proficiency, has become the new standard for school quality rating systems. This shift means school quality is being based on the academic progress of all students, whether or not they entered the school or grade performing at grade level.
  • Expansion of college- and career-readiness measures. Rating systems have moved beyond high school graduation rates to include more meaningful indicators of post-secondary student attainment and readiness.
  • Finding new ways to focus attention on lowest-performing students. The latest generation of school quality measures continues to identify and include new metrics to evaluate how well schools are preparing their most-challenged students.
  • Interest in valid measures of student engagement. Some rating systems have started to add qualitative measurements of school culture.
  • Increase in data transparency and public accessibility. School quality ratings are no longer judged just by their reliability and accuracy, but also by how well they make data available to key stakeholders, such as parents and policymakers.


Although each state still creates its own quality assessment system, some states have embraced similar plans. Sixteen states have modeled their quality assessment ranking on a system initially adopted in Florida, for example.


“As states continue to refine their quality assessment systems, we hope they will take these emerging trends under consideration,” Rees said. “Continuing to find new ways to measure how well our schools are doing, academically and in preparing children for the future, will help parents make better decisions about where their children go to school, and policymakers will be able to fine-tune the policies that govern our schools.”


Click here to read Quality School Ratings: Trends in Evaluating School Academic Quality.


About the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools


The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement. Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter sector. For more information, please visit our website at


About Public Impact


Public Impact’s mission is to dramatically improve learning outcomes for all children in the U.S., with a special focus on students who are not served well. We are a team of professionals from many backgrounds, including former teachers. We are researchers, thought leaders, tool-builders, and on-the-ground consultants who work with leading education reformers.