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School rankings, do they matter?

Posted by Rona Fischman September 6, 2012 01:58 PM

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My FaceBook page has a bunch of pictures of smiling elementary school children in raincoats. For the past week and a half, the “back to school” pictures are showing up. It seems to have rained on the first day of school on a couple of different days in a couple of different school districts. (Some districts started last week, some this week, and some are not open yet.) The children look happy, whether they are headed off to classrooms in Newton, Medford, Lexington, or Fort Lauderdale.

With the opening of school, I come to expect that Boston Magazine will publish its annual school review. There is rarely much difference in the top 50 list. There were no surprises in the top ten. The schools that make the top twenty or so are pretty consistent.

Weston
Lexington
Dover-Sherborn Regional
Concord-Carlisle
Wellesley
Wayland
Newton South
Sharon High
Acton-Boxborough Regional
Bedford

In 2011, the top 10 were:
Dover-Sherborn
Concord-Carlisle
Weston
Lincoln-Sudbury
Lexington
Manchester Essex
Wayland
Northborough-Southborough
Hamilton-Wenham
Sharon

Last year, they had two tables, one with classroom/curricular data (per pupil spending, number of AP classes, sports…) and one with test scores.

My client often ask me for measures like these when they are choosing a town. I keep them available. But, I also suggest that they test-drive any town they don’t know before house hunting there.

In 2008, Boston Magazine looked at the “smartest schools” which were the ones that got the best results for the money spent. I thought that was a good idea at the time. But, the list still had mostly schools that are in the “usual suspects” for making the top 20 or so. (in parentheses is the ranking for this year.) The notable exceptions were the two that ranked between 20-30 which get good results with tight control on the tax dollars spent (Algonquin and Andover.)

Concord-Carlisle (4)
Algonquin Regional (24)
Dover-Sherborn (3)
Bedford (10)
Weston (1)
Sharon (8)
Brookline (15)
Andover (27)
Wellesley (5)
Lincoln-Sudbury (16)

Still, these objective measures don’t tell the whole story. How did you judge what schools were good enough for your children? Do any of these indicators turn your head, or are you looking for something less measurable, like school culture, as most important for your family?

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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