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Who Do School Rankings Benefit?

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Summary: Increased Interest in School Rankings It's difficult to remember a time when the public school system in this country was under greater scrutiny. Newsweek is running features on the subject, there are a plethora of sites online that cater to a growing demand for comprehensive school rankings, and that most vociferous of public speech mechanisms, the blogosphere, has enough to say on the subject of listing schools based on rankings. Now, the richest man in the world has ste...

Increased Interest in School Rankings It's difficult to remember a time when the public school system in this country was under greater scrutiny. Newsweek is running features on the subject, there are a plethora of sites online that cater to a growing demand for comprehensive school rankings, and that most vociferous of public speech mechanisms, the blogosphere, has enough to say on the subject of listing schools based on rankings. Now, the richest man in the world has stepped into the picture. In the summer of 2006, Bill Gates and his wife Melinda announced the education program goals of their charitable foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The announcement of the Gates' proposed education goals couldn't have come at a more appropriate time. The public education system in the country is under growing pressure to deliver amid increasing concerns that the country's schools are churning out semi-literate youngsters who might be ill equipped to handle college level jobs in the real world. Proponents of school rankings insist that these listings give high school authorities a picture of where their schools stand overall. These schools, they argue, can thus be motivated to better their schools rankings. As well intentioned as the idea behind school rankings may be, there is enough to indicate that such listings may not always have the desired results on the quality of education offered at those schools that are placed lower in the rankings. Effects of Low School rankings on Parents All parents want to give their children the best possible education, regardless of their socio-economic status or which part of town they live in. That's a given. It's a different scenario when parents can afford to live in any part of town they choose, and have access to any number of schools for their children. But for parents who find that their children's schools have been placed low on school rankings, it can be demoralizing to say the least. Such parents might find it difficult to motivate their children enough. Effects of Low School Rankings on Teachers A public school teacher's job is an unthankful one, and for teachers in the low school rankings areas it makes a tough job even harder. And it's really difficult to teach in a poorly funded and low-income school. Low school rankings can mean that funding for the school is considerably lowered, and this cuts into any programs that the school may have planned. Although there are some instances when low school rankings will qualify a school for extra help. Effects of Low School Rankings on Students Keeping dropout levels low in poor areas is tough enough without the added stigma of attending a "sub par" school. Does that mean we should eliminate school rankings to save student's feelings? Of course not. But parents and administrators need to be aware of the both the benefits and pitfalls of the school ranking system.
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