A: Remember, a comparison always requires two things.
While comparing your school or district to others in your state is critical in determining the quality of your school or district, as we emphasize in our Data First training, when you ask how your school is doing, the answer is always “Compared to what?” We’d suggest replacing the “what?” with three guiding questions:
- How are we doing compared to the standards?
- How are we doing compared to ourselves?
- How are we doing compared to others?
Comparing your school to itself provides information on how the school is doing over time. Is it improving, is it declining, or is it stagnant? Comparing your school to standards provides information on how your school is doing compared to a set standard, such as “proficient” on the state assessment. This information tells you what percent of students have met the standard or not. If you want to compare your school to other schools in your state, you are asking to compare your school to others. One way to do this is by going to SchoolMatters, a database of data on schools across the country. However, you may get more updated and useful information by going to your state’s department of education’s Web site. States typically have their school data available earlier than SchoolMatters.
Make sure, when comparing your school to others in the state, that you are making apples-to-apples comparisons. For example, some schools may have higher test scores simply because they enroll fewer disadvantaged children.
In all cases, you will get the best information by asking all three questions. See our “Guiding Questions” lesson in the Learning Center for an explanation why.