Some studies indicate that school grades like those of GreatSchools can increase economic, social and racial gaps between communities.
A 2019 study by researchers from Duke University and the University of Florida found evidence that widespread access to GreatSchools school grades led to larger gaps in home values, income distribution and education levels in communities.
“Affluent and more educated families were better positioned to take advantage of this new information to seize educational opportunities in communities with the best schools,” according to the report.
The study found that home values increased in communities with highly rated schools after GreatSchools ratings became available, making it harder for low-income families to settle in the community. The proportion of white and Asian families in the community has also increased.
“An unintended consequence of better information was less, rather than more, equity in education,” according to the report.
GreatSchools has changed its methodology since collecting the data for this study, placing more emphasis on academic progress rather than standardized test scores in their assessments.
In 2022, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Blueprint Labs, in partnership with GreatSchools, found that standardized test scores were strongly correlated with race. Academic progress assessments were not, and were found to predict school quality much more accurately than standardized test scores. The study also suggested other ways GreatSchools and similar school ratings bodies could improve their grades.
According to GreatSchools CEO Jon Deane, the MIT Blueprint Labs study validates the direction GreatSchools is taking, “emphasizing quality metrics that better indicate what’s happening in schools, adding new types of data and give school leaders and parents more opportunities to share what makes their schools great.
He said GreatSchools is committed to using research insights to help evolve the organization’s methodology to better support parents, especially those from families that have historically been underserved by the education system.