I Want That School!

There are a couple of companies on TV that run commercials touting how they are different from their many competitors.  You may have seen them for both buying a car and choosing a frozen pizza.  The consumer is standing before a plethora of options, and starts identifying personal preferences.  When all is said and done, there is only one choice left.

What if we have that option with our public schools?  What is we were able to go and identify what we want from a school in a range of categories?  What if we were able to prioritize what issues are most important for us in choosing a public school for our child?
It may not be such a crazy question.  For residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (yeah, go Sox, Beard nation, yada yada) the Boston Globe has launched an online Massachusetts school calculator tool, called DreamSchool Finder.  (I know, not loving the name, but the intent is well meaning.)
At DreamSchool Finder, parents can choose the region of the state, the grade level of the child, and then get to look at five characteristics, giving them each percentages until the 100% mark is hit.  The choices include: Mathematics Growth, English Language Arts Growth, School Climate, College Readiness, School Resources, and Diversity.
So for those parents who care only about the test scores, they can be all about math and ELA growth and college readiness.  Those more concerned with the school culture can emphasize climate and resources.  
It is an interesting concept, and it is one that can significantly empower a parent or caregiver when used appropriately.  For families looking to relocate, it provides a tool for helping better understand which town may be best to lay down roots.  For others, it lets you see what schools might be doing it better, based on your percentages, and help you identify why so you can bring solutions to your own neighborhood school.
And if you had such a tool in a community that believed in complete school choice, it could be the holy grail.
Kudos to boston.com for offering up the resource.  Clearly, there is the need.  We should be working to develop more tools and providing more information so that parents are better informed on what is happening in their schools and better understand how other schools may be better suited to meet their own needs or preferences.

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