Giving Compass' Take:

• A new study found that more wealthy families are utilizing GreatSchools, a platform which was intended to make school ratings accessible to families with fewer social connections. 

• What is the next step forward to address this unintended outcome? How can GreatSchools redirect focus and targeted data to those who need it? 

• Read about four ways that school data is failing families. 


If there’s one thing parents, real estate agents, and educators all understand implicitly, it’s this: High property values are built on top-notch school districts.

Excellent schools are considered so precious, parents will risk huge fines and even jail sentences by enrolling their children under false pretenses. Buyers, even those without children, are willing to pay hefty premiums to live in good districts, since their prices are resilient to downturns in the housing market. And real estate databases like Zillow, Trulia, and Redfin all include copious information on the proximity and quality of local education options.

In fact, a new study finds, the increasing ubiquity of school quality ratings may be changing the complexions of whole neighborhoods and cities, deepening the divide between rich and poor areas.

The reason? As information on school performance becomes more widely available, the wealthy and well-educated flock to the areas with the highest-rated schools. Meanwhile, families and schools with fewer resources are left in their wake.

While states are required under federal law to collect and disseminate data on school performance, GreatSchools is undoubtedly the most visible private entity providing K-12 school ratings. The aim of publishing these grades is to help parents — especially low-income parents, who may lack the time and social connections to consider all the schooling options available to them — make informed decisions on where to enroll their children.

But the authors find that the information has had the unintended effect of making highly rated schools an exclusive destination for comparatively advantaged families.

Hasan and Kumar say their findings indicate “a widening gap in the proportion of high-income households in ZIP codes with low-performing schools and those with high-performing schools,” growing to as much as 1.6 percent four years after school ratings were made public.

Read the full article about school ratings data by Kevin Mahnken at The 74