School Achievements Explained

Grades

A+ School - Only the top 5% of schools are awarded the distinction of being an A+ School. Schools that receive this grade excel in academics and cultivate a safe and effectual environment for learning.

A School - Only 10% of schools are awarded the distinction of being an A School. Schools that receive this grade excel in academics and cultivate a safe and effectual environment for learning.

Overperformance Awards

Academic Overperformance III - Awarded to schools which perform substantially higher on standardized tests than predicted given the socioeconomic composition of their student body. Less than half a percent of schools nationwide qualify for this award.

Academic Overperformance II - Awarded to schools which perform substantially higher on standardized tests than predicted given the socioeconomic composition of their student body. Less than 1% of schools nationwide qualify for this award.

Academic Overperformance I - Awarded to schools which perform substantially higher on standardized tests than predicted given the socioeconomic composition of their student body. Less than 3% of schools nationwide qualify for this award.

Importance of SES

When evaluating school quality it is important to consider the socioeconomic status (SES) of the student body given the well-documented relationship between SES and standardized test performance. For instance, a student’s SES, as measured by their parent’s educational attainment and income, explains 21% of the variance in their SAT scores. Likewise, schools with a higher percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced price lunch (a proxy for SES) tend to have lower state standardized test results across academic subjects. While there are differences in strength across states, The School Review finds the relationship between SES and test performance to be quite robust. Roughly 60% of the variation in elementary school standardized test results, 62% of the variation in middle school standardized test results, and 48% of the variation in high school standardized test results can be explained by the percent of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch.

The School Review’s Levels of Academic Overperformance aim to recognize those schools exceeding academic expectations. They are awarded to schools with state standardized test results that outperform based on the socioeconomic status of the student body. Fundamentally, they are schools with average test scores significantly higher than predicted based on linear regression of the percent of students qualifying for free and reduced price lunch. Academic Overperformance III is awarded to schools with observed standardized test scores greater than 2 standard deviations above their predicted value. Only 336 out of more than 90,000 schools nationwide were awarded Academic Overperformance III . Academic Overperformance II is awarded to schools with observed standardized test scores between 1.5 and 2 standard deviations above their predicted value. Only 760 schools were awarded Academic Overperformance II. Finally, Academic Overperformance I is awarded to schools with observed standardized test scores between 1 and 1.49 standard deviations above their predicted value. Only 2,274 schools were awarded Academic Overperformance I.

Diversity Award

High Diversity - This award indicates that the student body at a school is among the most racially and ethnically diverse in the nation. Less than 10% of schools qualify for this badge. Read more about how this metric was calculated and why TheSchoolReview feels it is important to recognize those schools with highly diverse student populations.

Importance of Student Body Diversity

Student diversity within a school and classroom setting can be comprised of several forms including, religion, gender, socioeconomic background, English language skills, and race/ethnicity. At TheSchoolReview we measure a school’s student body racial/ethnic composition through a Diversity Index. We compute this metric given that students attending more racially/ethnically diverse schools enjoy several academic, psychosocial, civic, and economic benefits. These immediate and long-term advantages are outlined below.

First, school diversity enhances the student learning experience by promoting self-reflection and academic growth. Spending time among peers with divergent backgrounds exposes students to new perspectives. Such novel viewpoints expand students’ understanding of the world and can help them combat stereotypical thinking by challenging their preconceived beliefs. By recognizing and acknowledging cultural differences, students can reduce their own prejudices and become more tolerant. Moreover, greater diversity in schools can help minority students close racial achievement gaps and reduce their likelihood of dropping out.

Next, research indicates students feel safer when they are educated in a diverse setting. Learning about other cultures and backgrounds permits students to feel more comfortable in their own skin. One study found middle school students attending more racially diverse schools felt less lonely, less bullied, and safer. Greater racial diversity also increases the likelihood of cross-ethnic friendships, which can make students feel more socially competent and less vulnerable to peer harassment.

Finally, attending a racial and ethnically diverse school helps students learn to engage in civic discourse, thereby preparing them for citizenship in a multicultural democracy and a career in an increasingly global 21st century job market. In diverse classrooms, students learn to converse respectfully and dispassionately with students of different backgrounds. They gain an appreciation for their peers’ divergent life experiences. Such discourse and collaboration can improve cognitive skills, including problem solving, creativity, and critical thinking, and ready students to navigate adulthood in an increasingly international society—a skill that employers value.

To learn more about the benefits of greater student racial/ethnic diversity in schools, we recommend a 2016 report from The Century Foundation and a 2012 report from The Civil Rights Project at UCLA.

Our Diversity Index

The Diversity Index is a measure of the race/ethnicity diversity of a school’s student body. Ranging from 0 (no diversity) to 100 (full diversity), the metric indicates how evenly distributed students are among the seven racial/ethnic categories collected by the U.S. Department of Education (White, Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, Hawaiian Native/Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native, Two or More Races). The average Diversity Index across all U.S. schools is 38.