School Rankings and Their Not so Visible Effects

Written by Patricia Hawke for

Arguing the Merits of School Rankings 
The debate in education rages on endlessly – whether school rankings are worth the paper they’re printed on, whether the No Child Left Behind Act actually threatens to leave children behind in under funded schools, and last but not least, who holds responsibility for the stalemate in the American education system. With school authorities grappling with low school rankings, teachers leaving their schools in hordes, and parents who can’t seem to pull their children out of poor performing schools fast enough, the answer is far from clear.  
This much is clear however.  In a global economy where underperformers are cruelly left behind there is no place for those without basic 21st century skills.  A knowledge based economy is not fueled by college graduates alone.  Adequately trained high school graduates who plan to join the workforce soon after graduation will require skills that are far more cutting edge than those our parents received. 
Unfortunately we presently deal with an education climate in this country that’s marked with much confusion.  Educational authorities seem to have the most well intentioned plans that fall by the wayside because of lackluster implementation.  In such a scenario school rankings are still a parent’s safest bet to gauge the merits of a school.
Why School Rankings for School Selection? 
Those who argue against selecting an institution based entirely on its school rankings miss a vital point.  It’s still the only solid measure of a school’s overall performance.  It’s true that many schools that begin to see their school rankings slip lose their best and brightest students to other better performing institutions, and consequently lose funding.  This lack of funding causes them to cut down on programs and additional courses they may have planned, and this deteriorating financial situation is reflected in even lower rankings.  
Opponents of school rankings may argue that the schools in these situations risk getting trapped in a vicious cycle with no end in sight.  While that may be true to a certain extent, it’s not fair to expect parents to continue to keep their students in a school whose ranking is “poor”.  No parent wants a “poor” learning environment for their child.  And you can’t realistically go up to a parent and say, “Well, you know what, we’ve done pretty pathetically on the school rankings this year, but please don’t pull your child out, because then we’ll lose his share of funding and that will only damage our performance and our school rankings further!” 
In most cases, a child gets only one chance at a quality education that will leave him proficient in math and science.  Precious years wasted in an unfavorable environment can harm his potential, maybe even permanently.  A highly ranked school promises a sound organization, sufficient staff and a student population that performs well in the main areas of proficiency.  These are exactly the kind of words every parent wants to hear.