- A new report published in a journal of the American Educational Research Association shows school reviews, often used by parents to inform school choice, reflect student test scores, which are associated with race and family income, rather than school effectiveness, which measures student growth overtime.
- Researchers from the University of Oxford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology studied parents' reviews of 50,000 public schools over the course of a decade primarily on GreatSchools.org and also found urban schools and schools serving affluent families were more likely to be reviewed by parents.
- The findings suggest parents from lower-income, minority families may not have the same kind of information available online to inform decisions, while parents accessing and making decisions based on online reviews may be reinforcing achievement gaps.
With statewide testing on the horizon this year, districts are once again concerned about potential fallout connected to standardized test scores, including aspects like real estate values and community perception of school quality. While these stakes concern district leaders in a normal year, it could prove even more worrisome at a time when some districts are seeing drops in enrollment and attendance, often tied to funding.
Recent guidance from the U.S. Department of Education says while school ratings may be off the table this year, requirements around state and local report cards will stay in place, meaning districts must continue to be transparent with parents and the public about data on student learning.
The pandemic has also raised concerns about some affluent families choosing to send students to private schools, homeschooling or hiring private tutors or teachers, while lower-income students bear the brunt of learning losses and declining test scores. However, study coauthor Nabeel Gillani, a doctoral student at MIT, said additional research is necessary to distinguish whether reviews reflecting school demographics could potentially worsen neighborhood segregation.
District leaders have told K-12 Dive that maintaining relationships and communicating with parents, especially those of color, is key. That includes offering the "why" behind decisions in the most simplistic and understandable terms, keeping lines of communication open via email and other means, and keeping parents in the loop about personalized learning plans and tapping them as "co-teachers."
In the study, researchers suggested school administrators "foster a culture where all parents’ voices are valued and parents are encouraged to share their holistic views about the quality of education their children receive," according to an AERA press release.
“It is critical to uplift the voices of all parents, especially those in traditionally underserved communities, to highlight their experiences within a school community,” GreatSchools CEO Jon Deane said in the release.