Readers: Six ways to rate a high school’s quality

"The best high schools demonstrate the greatest application of knowledge," said one reader.

TIME magazine, U.S. News, and other publications have begun to release their “best” school rankings for 2012. Many of these rankings rely on two key factors in particular: standardized test scores and high school graduation rates. But are these the best criteria?

The magazines’ annual rankings of the best American high schools have been criticized for relying too heavily on data that are skewed by the abilities of students entering these institutions to begin with.

We wanted to know how our readers would like their schools to be evaluated, so we recently asked: “If you could only choose one, what’s the most important characteristic to evaluate a school’s success?”

Though a few respondents agreed that test scores still should hold the top spot, an overwhelming number of readers believe it’s what comes after high school that counts.

For example, some readers said the quality of a school should be measured by how many of its students not only attend, but graduate from, college—while others said it depends on what careers students chose later in life.

Underlying nearly all of the responses is the implication that stakeholders should be gathering a much broader range of data in order to rate a school’s effectiveness. Not only should school leaders and major research organizations take a look at how students are performing in the classroom, but also how students are performing outside of the classroom—and later on in college or the workforce.

In other words, perhaps the only true measure of a high-quality education is how well students adjust to the “real world” after graduation.

Here are some of the best responses from readers, listed in no particular order. Do you agree with these suggestions? Do you have some of your own? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section.

1. Look at the teachers.

“The highest percentage of experienced teachers (with the majority of teachers holding a master’s degree, with staff development in the age-stage development of children) who have an expectation of teaching the Social Emotional standards in the classroom along with cognitive content” should determine a school’s quality. —Louise Eggert-Nevins

Meris Stansbury

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