K-12 School Rankings

December 8, 2023

U.S. News & World Report and Niche. Two organizations that claim to offer K-12 school and college rankings from the very best on down. Although the lure of a simple road map to the school of your dreams for your learner is strong, “school rankings” offer no such easy-to-read map. 

As Smart City Kids Consultant Jackie Sirgo explains, “Rankings determined by these organizations and others are largely based on parent reviews, customer polls, geography, endowments, US National Education Department, and money spent on advertising – they aren’t really presenting an accurate picture. Niche K-12 rankings, for example, connect families and schools by neighborhood. Data from U.S. News & Report on K-12 schools and colleges is largely based on US Department of Education surveys, some of which may be outdated by 3 or more years. And independent schools do not disclose or release any academic data (not the case with public schools, who do) therefore there is no academic data by which to judge them – which is why rankings are useless.”  

This is all to say that data collected for K-12 rankings is not only inaccurate, more to the point, it’s irrelevant to your family because the reliability of right-fit school choices is really all based on the individual child. The ability to identify right-fit schools for your child is dependent on viewing the educational landscape through a multi-faceted lens. When you stop and think about it, how could it be any other way? How could there be one easy answer, one straight road that leads to the guaranteed well-being of your complex, multi-faceted, unique child?  

Instead of wasting your time with rankings, here are some tips to help you identify the best school choices for your child – no matter his or her age: 

  • Begin your search by identifying your values and priorities. What’s important to you? Location? Academic celebration? Extracurriculars? Athletics? Breadth of curriculum? Community? Diversity? A strong arts curriculum? 
  • Do your research by exploring the websites of schools that interest you. Find their mission statements. Ask yourself if their stated values resonate with yours.  
  • Schedule appointments to tour schools you are curious about. There’s no substitute for your gut feelings. Literally put yourself in the school environments you’re considering for your child and ask yourself, “Can I imagine my child here?” “Can I imagine my family here?”    
  • If your child is already in school, ask his or her teachers for feedback on how they learn. Remember that teachers see your child through an important educational lens that you can’t necessarily access as a parent. The same holds true for guidance counselors or parent coordinators. It takes a village, use the collected wisdom of those in your child’s educational inner circle for guidance. 
  • If your child is older, involve them in the search. The more they are invested in the process, the better your chances are for landing the best fit.  
  •  If you need more help, you can always seek out the services of an educational consultant who is familiar with admissions directors throughout the city and beyond and can share details about the nuances, cultures, and academic expectations of schools that fit your learner’s profile. 

Whatever approach you decide to take, remember that there are no simple answers, and no direct road map. The good news is that when you really dive into the search you are apt to discover more about yourself, your family, and your child than you might imagine – and these discoveries are what will successfully guide your search

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