According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there have been more than 98,000 public schools in the United States. Even divided by 50 states, that’s a big number to digest. How do you tell which schools are at the top?
The answer: The state’s School Report Cards, which are federally mandated to be available to the public under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). These report cards are complex, and each state has their own nuances, but the report cards are similar state-to-state.
Report Cards for Schools
States are required to make public ESSA report cards annually to give a sense of how a school is performing. Although the names of the sections may differ across reports, the information they provide typically is divided into one of five categories:
This section provides information on the students attending the school. This might be enrollment numbers, teacher and staff information, information on racial or ethnic self-identification, economic standing, learning differences, family backgrounds, and more.
Demographics tell you who will be around your children when they’re in school. Some families are looking for single-gender schools, others are keyed in to various forms of diversity within the learning environment. Regardless of what you’re seeking, demographics is the perfect place to start reviewing the report in order to get a sense of the campus.
2. Academic Achievement
This broad category covers multiple important concepts. One is how students perform on state exams. ESSA allows individual states to set their own parameters for standardized tests. However, to make it easier to compare schools in a consistent way, this section also typically includes performance on nationally standardized exams such as the SAT and ACT.
ESSA Report Cards must also include student progress, which provides data trends and gives a more realistic perspective of student performance over the span of several years, instead of just a single-year snapshot. Younger schools do not always have this information, and if a school has recently gone through a curriculum overhaul or other major changes, this data may be omitted for a few years.
Academic achievement can also include participation and success in challenging, upper-level courses such as AP, IB, and dual credit classes. It’s important to not only review how students perform – which can indicate teaching quality – but also whether or not they are included at all. Upper-level courses can help prepare students for postsecondary success, so many parents are drawn to schools that have a strong offering of them.
3. College and Career Readiness
This information might be included within academic achievement, but is often in its own section. Performance in upper-level courses and on national standardized exams are strong indicators here, if they aren’t covered in in academic achievement.
You’ll also want to review postsecondary placement and success. This will only be available in detail for schools enrolling 9th – 12th grade, and so is extra helpful for families with high school students. Knowing whether your student will be surrounded by like-minded peers who have similar goals can help make decisions regarding which school might be the best fit.
While not as critical in high school as it is when considering colleges, taking a look at the four-year graduation rate isn’t a bad idea, either.
Climate has anything and everything to do with school environment. Many campuses now implement student survey data, asking students their opinion on how high classroom expectations are or whether they feel as though their teachers care about them individually. This is invaluable information: understanding the school from the eyes of its students is the closest you’ll get to really knowing a campus before enrolling.
On a broader scale, this section usually also includes safety and disciplinary information. Rely on this information with caution – while it’s important to be aware of potential risks, keep in mind minor disciplinary infractions are going to happen on any campus.
This final category is easy to gloss over, in part because it’s located in various places on the report card, but is important. Accountability, another ESSA term, is used to indicate if a school has been identified as needing additional support, and if so, what kind.
Often, this information is indicated on the first page of the report, in the “Overview” or “Summary” section. Occasionally, however, this information is given a tab of its own within the report. The accountability score given to schools is determined by individual states, as are the plans of support moving forward.
Why pay attention to the accountability score? You may find yourself considering schools that don’t have the best SAT scores, but perhaps students indicate their teachers are highly trustworthy. Or, perhaps you’re looking at the top performing school in a state academically, but are concerned about their postsecondary readiness. If anything gives you pause in the report, see if the school has been flagged as needing additional assistance. If so, it’s likely the issues are already being addressed, and improvement is coming down the line.
Below are links to each state’s public education governing agency, as well as instructions on how to access their digital report cards.
- Achievement Gap – This term comes up a lot because the ESSA requires states address the trend of disadvantaged groups (such as economically disadvantaged students or English Language Learners) performing poorer than their peers. Any gap in performance between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged group on standardized assessments is called an Achievement Gap.
- ACT – Originally an acronym for American College Testing, “the ACT is a national college admissions examination that consists of subject area tests in English, mathematics, reading, [and] science.” In other words, it’s a national exam students take (often in 11th grade) to determine preparedness in college. Colleges each set their own acceptance range of ACT scores.
- AP – Advanced Placement, or AP, refers to challenging, upper-level courses available to students at some high schools, taught by their own teachers. The potential benefits of taking AP courses in high school are earning college credit at the high school level, the being able to bypass introductory college courses, standing out in the college application process, and/or saving time and money.
- Dual Enrollment – Also referred to as dual credit or concurrent enrollment, dual enrollment courses are taken at a college campus, taught by college professors, and give students the potential to earn college credit while in high school.
- Early College High School – An Early College High School, or ECHS, is a high school that operates entirely on an accredited college campus. Students take college courses for some or all of their high school credit, often earning an Associate’s Degree during high school.
- EOC – End-of-Course Assessments occur at the end of the academic year, and are only required in certain states. Students may take EOCs in middle or high school.
- Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA) – Put into law in 2015, this act is an updated version of No Child Left Behind. Among several changes, the goal of ESSA is to track and reward individual and group academic progress, instead of relying strictly on a pass/fail determination by exams.
- IB – The International Baccalaureate Program, or IB, refers to curricula that is “develop[ed] independently of government and national systems” and values critical thinking, intercultural understanding, and global awareness. A school with an approved IB program is designated as an IB World School; the IB curriculum provides the potential benefit of earning college credit, and IB students are likely to perform at a higher academic level than non-IB students.
- NAEP – The National Assessment of Educational Progress is an exam given to a representative sample of U.S. students across the country to assess how U.S. students are performing collectively and across specific subgroups.
- SAT – The Scholastic Aptitude Test is a national exam divided into two sections, math and evidence-based reading and writing. Colleges use scores from this entrance exam to determine admissions; colleges and universities each set their own acceptance range of SAT scores.
- Title 1 – This school designation refers to a federally funded program to assist schools who have large populations of at-risk students reach educational goals.
School Ratings by State
The Alabama State Department of Education, or ALSDE, manages the Alabama public education system for students. Nearly 800,000 students are enrolled in Alabama’s schools.
You can view and compare school performances on the Education Report Card section of the site. Schools are given an Overall Score for the academic year, A-F, based on a point system of the accountability indicators. You’ll also notice that each school is designated a support level, which indicates what measures need to be taken in order for the school to earn a passing score in the future.
When reviewing Alabama reports, you may see the term Scantron referenced; this is the name of the state assessment for students grades three through eight. Alabama also utilizes the ACT as a high school assessment.
The governing body for education in Alaska is the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (DEED). The average class size across elementary, middle, and high schools in Alaska is 10.2, with a student/teacher ratio of 16.9:1.
The state annually reports public school performance and progress in the Alaska Public Schools: A Report Card to the Public. Reviewing the “Attendance, Graduation, and Dropout” tab provides a snapshot of key factors broken down into various subgroups, and the “Two-Year Trend Data” is helpful for determining general academic performance. If you have the option of several different schools within a district, information can also be viewed across a district.
Alaska’s state assessment is the Performance Evaluation for Alaska’s Schools, or PEAKS; school scores can be found under the similarly-named tab.
Education in Arizona is governed by the Arizona Department of Education (ADE). The average classroom size is just under 20 students, with a 23.1:1 student/teacher ratio. The state graduation has consistently been 75% or more. The AZ School Report Cards offer comprehensive information on the basic demographics, academic and extracurricular offerings, and data on student and teacher performance. To view a school, choose “Schools” from the tab at the top of the page and find your school in the alphabetical list provided. These easy-to-navigate reports also include a School Grade at the top, which provides a snapshot score based on overall data. In Arizona, the possible School Grades are:
- A (84.67% – 100%)
- B (72.39% – 84.66%)
- C (60.11% – 72.38%)
- D (47.83% – 60.10%)
- F (< 47.82%)
Arizona law requires school boards and districts with a D or F score to implement development improvement plans. Although the School Grade is a quick compilation of data, it’s important to review the entire report thoroughly as the detailed information can reveal circumstances causing these scores.
The most common Arizona state assessments are the AzM2 – an English language arts and math assessment for grades 3rd – 8th and 10th; and Arizona’s Instruments to Measure Standard Science (AIMS Science), which assesses science proficiency in 4th, 8th, and 9th – 12th grade. Performance on these exams can be found under the “Student Achievement in State Academic Assessment Detail Results” section.
The Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (ADESE) offers almost 250 districts for families to choose from, and over 1,000 different K-12 public schools. The statewide high school graduation rate is in the mid-to-upper 80 percent range, and there are more than 80 institutions of higher education for further education.
Arkansas offers state, district, and school report cards for families to familiarize themselves with educational opportunities in the state. The Information and Statistics tabs provide a broad overview of important data about the school or district. The Report Card tab dives deeper into that data, providing breakdowns into subgroups and additional information on how the data is calculated. The School Rating tab is a snapshot perspective, showing the score for state accountability and the public school rating, if applicable. This public school rating and the rating scale beside it helps put multiple schools into context with each other.
You will likely see the Arkansas Comprehensive Testing, Assessment, and Accountability Program (ACTAAP) referenced by the ADESE. This program includes End-of-Course, or EOC, exams; the ACT; and Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM).
The California Department of Education (CDE) governs the education for more than six million students across 1,100 districts in Pre-K through grade 12. The statewide high school graduation rate has been trending mostly positive, and currently sits at just over 80 percent. A little more than 20 students per classroom is average in California, with a student/teacher ratio of 23:1.
The California School Dashboard is an easy-to-navigate online system for families to view school standards. California schools and districts can score one of five performance levels, or colors: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, or Blue (from lowest to highest). Scoring is based on current year results and if there was improvement from the previous year.
For elementary and middle schools, the Academic Performance and Conditions & Climate sections are likely the most useful. For high schools, be sure to take note of the College/Career readiness tab under the Academic Performance section, as well as the Graduation Rate underneath Academic Engagement.
The most common statewide assessment in California is the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP); these scores are used to calculate the English Language Arts and Mathematics scores under Academic Performance.
The Colorado Department of Education is responsible for setting state standards. The average classroom size is 22 students, with a student-to-teacher ratio of 17:1. Statewide, the graduation rate has been trending positively over the last five years and is currently just below 80 percent. The Colorado SchoolView Dashboard system features both snapshot and detailed data on school and district performance, as well as a Like-District Locator tool so families can identify districts with similar demographics.
To navigate the dashboard, simply select a district from the dropdown menu, or click the blue “School Dashboard” button and choose a specific school. To make things easier, the first row of the dropdown menu is a search bar to type the school or district name into. Simply select the district or school you wish to know more about, and navigate the tabs across the top of the report for more information.
The common state assessment in Colorado is the Colorado Measure of Academic Success (CMAS); performance on this exam is recorded under the Achievement and Growth tabs.
Want to familiarize yourself with public education in the Constitution State? Start with a visit to the website for the Connecticut State Department of Education. The CSDE sets the standard for primary and secondary education, and has celebrated an increasing high school graduation rate since 2010, reaching a state record of 87 percent in 2019.
To review individual schools and districts, visit CSDE’s EdSight webpage to read Profile and Performance Reports as well as Next Generation Accountability Results. The former is the easier to digest of the two, with sections broken down by demographics and academic performance. The Reports also provide a more holistic perspective of the school, and include the Next Generation Accountability Results.
You may come across several standardized exam acronyms while reviewing Connecticut school performance reports. The most common of these are:
- Connecticut Smarter Balanced Assessment – administered grades three through eight
- Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) – administered grades five, eight, and 11
- Connecticut Physical Fitness Assessment – grades four, six, eight, and 10
The Delaware Department of Education, or DDOE, enrolls more than 100,000 students in primary and secondary public education. The First State (a nickname made official by Delaware General Assembly House Bill 395 at the request of a first grade class at Mount Pleasant Elementary School) has a graduation rate of around 86 percent, which is above the national average of 84 percent.
Delaware Report Cards are the best place to view information on specific schools and districts. The snapshot page serves up quick, digestible information, each of which can be selected to dive into further detail. Particularly helpful is how prominently the enrollment features, which is useful if you’ve determined what school size your student would best thrive in.
To determine English language arts and mathematics performance, report cards take information from the Smarter Balanced Assessment, administered in grades three through eight; and the SAT, administered in grade 11.
District of Columbia
Public education in the District of Columbia is maintained by the State Board of Education. Just over 45,000 students are enrolled in primary and secondary public schools in D.C., and the territory has an overall high school graduation rate of 68 percent.
The Office of the State Superintendent of Education, or OSSE, publishes annual report cards for every school in the territory. Use the report cards to view overall demographics, available school programs, academic performance, and school environment. You may notice a STAR Rating toward the top of the report; the School Transparency and Reporting Framework allows each school to earn a rating of one to five stars, lowest to highest.
Under the Academic Performance tab, you’ll notice test acronyms referenced. PARCC is the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, and the MSAA is the Multi-State Alternate Assessment. Following the acronym is a number, which indicates what level or higher is considered proficient on that particular exam (for example, 4+ means that a level four or five score is acceptable).
Florida’s Department of Education manages the state’s public education system for the more than 2 million enrolled students. The state’s high school graduation rate has been steadily increasing since the 2006-07 academic year, reaching 86 percent in the 2017-18 academic year.
Older school reports are available, but FLDOE has also built a new website for 2017-18 and onward academic report cards. This new and fully-interactive website provides snapshot and detailed information on each school, along with subgroup breakdowns and comparisons across district and state. There is also an easy-to-see School Grade at the top of each school report; selecting the View School Performance Components bar underneath the school grade will reveal the range of scores, and where that specific school falls within their score.
When reviewing the reports, you may come across testing acronyms. FSA is the Florida Standards Assessment, and the SSA is the Statewide Science Assessment. These, along with End-of-Course or EOC exams, are the most referenced.
With over 2,000 schools, the Georgia Department of Education is focused on providing quality education to all students. The Peach State’s on-time high school graduation rate has been steadily increasing since 2012 to reach and all-time high of 81.6 percent. The state also scored an average composite ACT score above the national average for 2019.
The state provides College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) Reports, which show information on specific campuses and districts. The information and demographics on the Overview tab are useful for a quick evaluation, as is the Overall School Score displayed at the top right of the screen. Academic information is also available under the Elementary, Middle, and High selections at the top of the screen. By scrolling all the way through the report, you can quickly access the district and state comparisons.
Selecting the “High” report type and reviewing the Content Mastery section, you’ll see standardized test performance in the state. The Georgia Milestones, implemented in 2014, is the statewide exam.
The Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) releases the Strive HI annually to evaluate student and district performance in compliance with federal regulations. Statewide graduation rate has held steady at just over 80 percent for the last five years. Hawaii offers English-speaking schools, as well as Kaiapuni schools, which are Hawaiian Language immersion schools in which English is not formally introduced until grade five.
To navigate the Strive HI reports, lookup a school by name in the search bar and select which report you would like to view. The most digestible of these reports is titled “Strive HI Report: [School Name]” but several other reports come up as well; note the Area of Interest and description under each report to find out what information they include.
Hawaii utilizes the Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA). This information will be included in the Trend Report and Strive HI report.
The Idaho State Department of Education (ISDE) manages school and district performance in the state. Idaho’s statewide graduation rate is on an upward trend, currently residing at 80 percent. The student/teacher ratio is 18.7:1, and an average of 19 students fill each classroom.
Annually, ISDE releases School Reports digitally for families to navigate school overviews, as well as academic and non-academic indicators for performance. Search for a school via address or school name, then use the tabs across the top of the report to navigate information. On the main page of each school report, you’ll see a School Recognition indicator; this is unique to Idaho, and schools can be ranked one of four ways:
- Comprehensive Support and Improvement Underperforming (CSI UP)
- Comprehensive Support and Improvement Graduation (CSI Grad)
- Top Performing
- Goal Makers
CSI UP indicates a school is underperforming overall, while CSI Grad specifically identifies high schools with a graduation rate below 67 percent. Schools ranked Top Performing are within the 90th percentile, while Goal Maker indicates a school has reached an interim target for Idaho’s statewide goal of reducing “students who are not proficient, not graduating, and not making progress toward English language proficiency.” The state hopes to reduce this number by 1/3 within six years.
The Idaho Standards Achievement Test, or ISAT, measures academic success in core areas for public school students in the state. This exam is referenced in various sections of the Academic Indicators tab.
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) boasts an 87 percent high school graduation rate, above the national average. More than two million students are enrolled in over 4,000 schools in Illinois, giving families a wide selection of schools to choose from.
The Illinois Report Card covers detailed information on student performance, demographics, and teacher and administrator information. The “School Snapshot” tab gives a Summative Designation for each individual school, determined based on academic performance and, if applicable, graduation rates. Schools can receive one of four designations:
- Exemplary – Schools performing in the top 10 percent of schools statewide with no underperforming student groups
- Commendable – Schools with no underperforming student groups, graduation rate greater than 67 percent, but whose performance is not in the top 10 percent of schools statewide
- Underperforming – Schools with one or more student groups performing at or below the level of the “all students” group in the lowest performing 5 percent of schools
- Lowest Performing – Schools in the lowest performing 5 percent of schools statewide and any high school with a graduation rate of 67 percent or lower
State assessment acronyms to be familiar with when reviewing Illinois Report Cards are:
- DLM-AA – Dynamic Learning Maps Alternative Assessment (for students with cognitive disabilities)
- IAR – Illinois Assessment of Readiness (implemented 2019 to replace PARCC exam, )
- ISA – Illinois Science Assessment (administered in grades five, eight, and once in high school)
- PSAE – Prairie State Achievement Examination
The Indiana Department of Education, or IDOE, regulates the more than one million students enrolled in public schools in Indiana. An 88 percent high school graduation rate puts Indiana above the national average, and the number has been rising over the last few years.
Indiana releases annual School Reports for families to peruse when determining where to enroll their students. The search bar at the top allows you to search by district or school; when a district is selected, a dropdown menu appears with all available schools. The Overview tab gives a snapshot of demographics and assessment performances, but the detailed report is under Accountability.
Of note: when the Accountability tab is selected, the Historical Report Card is automatically displayed; you’ll need to select the Report Card tab to the immediate right to see the most recent score.
Report Cards include a letter grade, A being the highest and F being the lowest. Student performance and growth is used to calculate the grade for elementary and middle schools; for high schools, graduation rate and college and career readiness are added into the equation. This letter grade is an easy way to get a quick perspective of a school.
Under the Student Performance tab, several assessments are listed via their acronyms:
- IREAD-3: Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination, which assesses reading standards in grade three
- ISTEP+: Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus, administered in grades three through eight and 10 to assess reading, writing, and mathematic skills
- ECA: End of Course Assessment, grades 10 through 12.
- ISTAR: Indiana Standards Tools for Alternate Reporting, administered in place of the ISTEP+ for students with significant cognitive disabilities
Approximately a half-million public school students are enrolled in Iowa, and the Iowa Department of Education is responsible for determining public education standards. Iowa graduation rates are well above the national average, at over 90 percent.
Iowa School Performance Profiles are available for families to consider. When a school is selected, the School Summary tab provides quick information on enrollment, as well as an Overall Performance score. Each metric is given a score value, and points are added up from zero to 100. Schools can earn one of six Overall Performance scores, depending on their accumulated points:
- Exceptional – 66.31 points and above
- High Performing – 60.61 through 66.30
- Commendable – 54.91 through 60.60
- Acceptable – 49.21 through 54.90
- Needs Improvement – 43.96 through 49.20
- Priority/Comprehensive – 43.95 and below
The School Performance Profiles include the Iowa Assessments, which was replaced in 2019 with the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP).
More than 1,000 public schools are governed by the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE). The state’s high school graduation rate is in the mid-to-upper 80 percent range, just above national average.
To review individual school performance, check out the Kansas Report Card. Selecting a school shows the Board Goals and Outcomes, as well as the Data and Measures. Note that in the first section, each individually titled card links to a video outlining the state’s goals for schools.
The Data and Measures section holds details on the individual school. Review the Postsecondary and Graduation cards for details about postgrad success, and the Performance Level Reports card contains statistics on academic success. The standardized tests you’ll see mentioned on the Report Card include the Kansas Assessment Program (KAP); and the Kansas English Language Proficiency Assessment 2 (KELPA2).
The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) manages education standards for more than 100 school districts across the state. The state’s overall high school graduation rate is just under 90 percent. For current data on individual campuses and districts, visit the revamped Kentucky’s School Report Card website. For historical campus and district data, peruse the Prior School Report Cards.
The main page of the School Report Card includes various Key Topics, making it easy to access snapshot data efficiently without having to dig through various sections of the website. The Education Opportunity card, for example, gives you quick access to know what advanced coursework is available for students. Each card can be selected to provide more in-depth information, including breakdowns of the data into a wide range of subgroups. The Academic Performance card, which provides information on the state’s standard Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP) exam, also shows student scores on advanced coursework exams.
“Louisiana Believes,” the motto for the Louisiana Department of Education, exemplifies the state’s commitment to primary and secondary education. The state’s high school graduation rate is just under the national average at 82 percent; 2019 results on the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP) indicate an improvement in literacy for the fifth year in a row.
To get into specific schools, visit the Louisiana School Finder, which holds all of the federally mandated report cards for schools in the state. Selecting a school brings up the Report Card Grade in the top left; schools can earn an A – F score or T, which indicates a previously failing school is in its first two years under a turnaround operator.
On the main “About” page, you can also get a sense of extracurricular activities available at a school (useful for any athletes, actors, or musical performers in the family!) Selecting the Academic Performance tab dives into the Report Card Grade awarded to the school, and also provides historical data on the school’s performance.
Selecting the two opposite-facing arrows icon on the right saves a school for comparison (up to three can be compared at a time), and selecting the heart icon saves a school to your favorites for easy access in the future.
Louisiana most often uses the LEAP 2025 exam for grades three through eight, and a combination of LEAP 2025, End-of-Course (EOC) exams, and the ACT for high school students.
Roughly 180,000 are students enrolled in Maine’s public education system. The Maine Department of Education sets academic standards, and also keeps track of school performance with the Maine Assessment and Accountability Reporting System, or MAARS.
The MAARS website includes both Quick Reports and Interactive Reports. Quick Reports are Excel spreadsheets that can be downloaded for an overview of all Maine public schools performance on a given subject. Interactive Reports, on the other hand, allow individual school scores to be examined and compared against one another.
You can switch between the two using the tabs at the top left of the screen. Data for these reports is pulled from student performance on Main Comprehensive Assessment System, or MECAS, exams. These include the Main Educational Assessments (MEA) in science, mathematics, English language arts/literacy in grades three through eight, as well as SAT scores from high school students.
Maryland State Department of Education is committed to “changing Maryland for the better” across the 1,400 schools that serve nearly 900,000 primary and secondary students. Visit their main site to learn about the latest press releases, support for economically disadvantaged students, and more.
You can also view state, district, and school report cards at the Maryland Public Schools Report Cards website. An individual school report card will provide a star score, a percentile rank, and a percentage of total earned points.
These three different aspects make reading the reports at a glance quite easy. Scrolling down, you can also view the individual points sections to see the breakdown of specific data; most tabs are self-explanatory, and the MCAP tab shows that school’s scores on various exams of the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program, which is the state’s standardized testing.
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education might be in one of the smallest states in the U.S., but they have quite a job with more than 900,000 students enrolled in public schools annually.
One of the unique ways in which Massachusetts supports its students is through instituted learning standards for each grade level that are maintained at a state level, while still allowing individual campuses and teachers to structure curriculum, select books, and more. Massachusetts is the first state in the country to implement learning standards for individual grade levels.
School and District Profiles are easy to navigate by the name of a school or district, or by selecting a geographic area on the map. The report shows demographic breakdowns, teacher information, accountability, and can compare multiple schools or districts.
The final tab on the report, labeled Trends – DART, indicates student performance on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). This is the statewide standardized test in Massachusetts, and the tab shows individual school progression and if they’re on target for set goals.
Over 1.5 million students are enrolled in the Michigan public schools system, which is managed by the Michigan Department of Education. The graduation rate is 80 percent.
To access data on individual schools, head to the Michigan School Data website and select the Parent Dashboard dropdown menu. “Dashboard Home” or the “Find a School” option will both give you capabilities to search for a school by name, district, city, or county; or by using an interactive map. Selecting a specific school will take you to the Overview section on the report, which shows demographics, information on the campus, and Key Performance Indicators.
Selecting the Performance tab will display student results on standardized state testing. Students in Michigan typically take the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress, or M-STEP.
The Minnesota Department of Education, or MDE, sets standards for the more than 2,000 public schools in the state. The statewide high school graduation rate has been increasing every year, reaching 83 percent for the 2018-19 academic year. For detailed information on campuses, Minnesota also provides Report Cards.
Minnesota Report Cards are easy to navigate, with a left hand side menu that makes the data simple to digest. Review the “Are students safe and engaged?” tab to get a sense of how students feel about attending their learning environment, which can be especially useful if you’re moving from several states away and won’t have as much opportunity to visit the area. Use the magnifying glass icon in the upper right to filter the information. You can also add multiple views to compare different datasets all at once.
Whenever reviewing Minnesota schools, you may come across different acronyms for their standardized testing. The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, or MCAs, and the Minnesota Test of Academic Skills, or MTAs, are the two most common.
The Mississippi Department of Education believes in “ensuring a bright future for every child,” and so it carefully monitors the more than 1,000 schools within its state borders. The statewide high school graduation rate is just shy of the national average, coming in at 83 percent.
When diving into specifics of school and district performance in the Mississippi Succeeds Report Cards, be sure to pay attention to the letter grade awarded to each school, which comes up at the top of the report. The additional factors listed lower down are important for understanding academic performance and participation, along with information about classroom culture.
For standardized statewide testing, the state uses the Mississippi Academic Assessment Program (MAAP) in grades three through eight, as well as subject-area tests and the ACT for high school students.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, or DESE, carries out the ESSA regulations for the approximately 2,400 schools in the state. Missouri boasts a statewide high school graduation rate exceeding 90 percent, which is higher than the national average.
Detailed information on campuses and districts is compiled in the Missouri Comprehensive Data System. Selecting the “Reports and Resources” tab at the top of the page takes you to links to search through district and school report cards. You can review the information in one document, making it easy to understand. The document also includes information about performance on the Missouri Assessment Program, or MAP, which is the state’s standardized exam.
Montana’s Office of Public Instruction (OPI) records and regulates performance data for all public school students. The high school graduation rate has been steadily increasing over the last five years, reaching just past 85 percent; and the average 12.5 students per classroom complement the student/teacher ratio of 14:1.
OPI releases state, district, and school Report Cards annually; each school report card shows district and state comparisons for an easy review. Select the appropriate link depending on if you want to view a state, district, or school report; and with either of the latter, use the dropdown menu at the upper left of the screen to select an organization, and then click View Report at the top right. If the terminology in any of the reports is unclear, utilize the Report Card Definitions & Methodology linked under the “Universal Support” section of each report card.
The state assessment in Montana is the Smarter Balanced Assessment for students in grades three through eight. For high school assessments, Montana uses the ACT, taken in grade 11.
The Nebraska Department of Education sets standards for public education in the Cornhusker State. The state offers more than 250 school districts to choose from, and has a high school graduation rate of 89 percent. Once you’ve determined a specific district or school, head to the Nebraska Education Profile to view its data.
Selecting a specific school opens up a highly interactive report card; the School Snapshot provides an overview, and you can dive into specific datasets as needed. At the bottom of the Snapshot is the graduation rate and college-going rate, if applicable, and all sections include a comparison with three different groups:
- Peers – the 12 Nebraska schools or districts most alike what you have selected
- District – a comparison with other schools in the district
- State – a comparison with the state average
At the top of the page is a School Classification, which is useful for comparing multiple public schools within Nebraska. Schools can rank Excellent, Great, Good, or Needs Improvement; and their score is highlighted with the appropriate color.
You’ll also notice a tab labeled “AQuESTT Classification,” which is meant to be fully implemented by the end of 2019. This will add a layer of holistic review for both schools and students. The six categories AQuESTT monitors are:
- Positive Partnerships, Relationships, and success
- Educational Opportunities and Access
- College, Career, and Civic Ready
- Educator Effectiveness
When reviewing the report cards, you’ll likely come across the acronym NSCAS, which stands for the Nebraska Student-Centered Assessment System (pronounced “en-skass,” in case you were curious). This is the statewide standardized exam all Nebraska students participate in.
Nevada Department of Education (NDE) works to maintain public education for just under 500,000 students across the state. While the high school graduation rate is on par with most other states, right around 70 percent, the state has reported the highest average classroom size for two consecutive years with roughly 25 students per classroom; the student/teacher ratio is 20:1.
Nevada has school and district report cards that review demographics, performance, and extracurricular activities in specific schools. To navigate the report, determine if you’d like to view state data or district and school data. Selecting a specific entity will bring up an “at a glance” overview, as well as the option to view more detailed information.
Nevada utilizes the Criterion Referenced Tests (CRT) for grades three through eight, the ACT for high school assessment, and several other exams for various grade levels. These exams are referenced under the Achievement tab, if you click the link for a more detailed report.
The New Hampshire Department of Education has a firm belief in supporting all students across the state. The state’s high school graduation rate sits at 89 percent.
NH school and district profiles can be searched by various parameters, including an interactive map by county. Schools and districts can also be compared against one another, and quick access to the State Profile makes it easy to understand how an individual campus compares to state trends.
Information on academic progression is taken from student performance on the NH Statewide Assessment System (NH SAS), the SAT, and the Dynamic Learning Maps alternate assessment (DLM).
The Garden State enrolls more than one million students in the state’s public school system, managed by the New Jersey Department of Education. The state has managed to exceed a 90 percent graduation rate, one of the highest in the country.
The New Jersey School Performance Reports page generates school profiles and data is broken down into a high number of subgroups. The site is easy to use; particularly useful is the Narrative tab, which highlights all of the information (without the data) families might want to know, including extracurricular programing and opportunities for parent and community involvement.
Previously, students took the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC exam. As of 2019, students will instead be assessed using the New Jersey Student Learning Assessments, or NJSLA.
The New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) regulates education standards in the Land of Enchantment. The high school graduation rate hovers around 70 percent, and the average class size is about 13, with a student/teacher ratio of 15:1. NMPED shares information with families via annual School Grades. To navigate the site, simply follow the link and search for a school via name or address and grade level.
Currently, schools receive an Overall Letter Grade of A-F, which presents student data in one score. Moving forward, however, New Mexico has announced it will focus less on the letter grade – which puts an emphasis on student test scores – and more on how much state and federal assistance a school needs to meet standards. Another factor to consider within the School Grade is Graduation & College and Career Readiness, which indicates future success after graduating high school.
Until the 2018-19 academic year, New Mexico public schools were tested using the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC exam. In January 2019, it was announced the PARCC test would be replaced by the New Mexico Standards-Based Transition Assessment of Math and English Language Arts, a previous standardized assessment used by the state, until a new assessment is developed for the 2019-20 academic year.
Visit the New York State Education Department webpage to view pertinent news about education in the Empire State. More than 2.5 million students attend the 4,400 NYSED public schools, and collectively, the state has an 80 percent high school graduation rate.
Review NYSED individual school report cards to get an understanding of a campus’ demographics breakdown, and selecting either “Student Data” or “School Data” allows you generate specific reports based on the information you’re looking for. Several filters are available to you as you build these reports; a few to consider are:
- Overall Status – indicates a school’s overall performance
- High School Composite Performance – provides composite scores on state standardized testing
- High School Graduation Rate – indicates the four, five, and six year cohort graduation rate
- CCCR Levels – indicates where students are scoring on college and career readiness, as well as how they are comparing to state standards, Measures of Interim Progress (MIP), and End Goals.
The Department of Public Instruction in North Carolina boasts an 86.5 percent graduation rate, which has been increasing over the last 10 years. Nearly 1.5 million students are enrolled in the state’s public education system.
North Carolina School Report Cards are available to compare schools across districts and across the state. Selecting one shows an overall grade for each school, as well as extensive data on how the grade is calculated. You can also view information on teachers, such as experience level and turnover rates. The School Environment section toward the bottom of the page includes interesting data on ratios, such as student per device or book titles per student.
Students participate in End-of-Grade and End-of-Course exams (EOG and EOC, respectively) to determine yearly academic progress.
The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction sets education standards in the 39th state, where just over 100,000 students are enrolled in grades kindergarten through 12. The state boasts a high school graduation rate above the national average, coming in at 92 percent.
Insights.nd.gov holds data for individual schools and districts. You can navigate schools based on district, name, or by using an interactive map; and the menu on the left side of the screen makes sifting through the information fairly easy. The Academic Progress section is likely going to have the most relevant information, including state assessment performance and graduation rates. The statewide exam you will see referenced most often is the North Dakota State Assessment, or NSDA.
Visit the Ohio Department of Education’s webpage for information on public education within the state. The state’s high school graduation rate has been steadily increasing, and recently reached an all-time high of 85 percent.
When viewing the School Report Cards Data for Ohio schools, schools are awarded an individual letter grade for each component they are measured on, as well as an overall school grade. This allows you to quickly ascertain any areas a school may be performing lower in, and clicking on a specific question grants even more details about their score. Note that the letter grades follow a traditional system:
- A – 90% to 100%
- B – 80% to 89.9%
- C – 70% to 79.9%
- D – 50% to 69.9%
- F – Below 50%
The colors are based on the section being graded, not on the letter grade earned.
You may come across several acronyms referring to various state exams that Ohio students take. These are the most common:
- AASCD – Alternative Assessment for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities
- OELPA – Ohio English Language Proficiency Assessment
- OELPS – Ohio English Language Proficiency Screener
- OGT – Ohio Graduation Test (only to be administered through 2022 graduation)
- OST – Ohio’s State Tests
Over 600,000 students are enrolled in the public school system of the Sooner State, which is managed by the Oklahoma State Department of Education (SDE). The SDE runs several blogs, including ELEVATE, which chronicles innovations in schools; these are a great way to get to know the culture of education in Oklahoma. The state also boasts an 82 percent graduation rate, which is nearly on par with the national average.
Oklahoma’s compliance with ESSA comes in the form of the Oklahoma School Report Cards, which provide data on both individual schools and campuses. The Overview section makes it easy to peruse a school’s performance on five key indicators: Academic Achievement, Graduation, English Language Proficiency Progress, Chronic Absenteeism, and Postsecondary Opportunities.
Each of these is given a letter grade based on a point system; and then the scores are compiled into the Overall Grade awarded to the school. Additionally, you can view the opportunities that might make a school standout, such as fine art programs or IB courses.
The Oregon Department of Education or ODE has detailed information on all public education regulations in the state. Statewide high school graduation has been increasing over the last five years to reach over 70 percent.
Among the data and information on ODE’s website are the 2017-18 School and District Profiles and Reports available for individual download. Search for an individual school and then choose to download the report in either English or Spanish. Profiles and reports of previous years can be found here. Current and older reports provide a comprehensive analysis based on attendance and academic performance, as well as including information on demographics and key staff and faculty data.
Like many other states in this region, Oregon’s Statewide Assessment System (OSAS) assesses English language arts and math in grades three through eight, as well as grade 11; and science and social studies in grades five, eight, and 11.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education boasts a nearly 90 percent graduation rate across the 500 school districts in the state. Governor Tom Wolf’s Schools that Teach Tour is a unique initiative in Pennsylvania focused on sharing innovative classroom techniques and programs with educators across the state, and is a strong example of the value Pennsylvania places on education.
View individual School Performance Profiles to get a sense of the schools available nearby your new home. Schools are measured based on State Assessment Measures, On-Track Measures, and College and Career Measures; within the subsections, schools can score Blue, Green, or Red. Demographics are available in the “School Fast Facts” section.
You will likely see the PSSA referenced throughout your research into Pennsylvania schools. This stands for the Pennsylvania System School Assessment, which includes all statewide mandated testing within public schools.
Rhode Island Department of Education, or RIDE, has a user-friendly website so families can navigate useful data, such as zoning maps, nutrition programs, and inspirational stories from schools across the state.
RIDE’s school and district report cards are exceptionally detailed, with reports including information such as teacher absenteeism and postsecondary enrollment in R.I. public and private institutions, as well as out of state enrollment. Knowing where students enroll following high school can be especially helpful if your student has a specific institution in mind for higher education.
At the beginning of the 2017-18 academic year, Rhode Island opted to begin administering the Rhode Island administration of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, or RICAS, for standardized testing in grades three through eight.
The South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) governs education for the more than 750,000 students enrolled in the state’s public school system. With over 1,000 schools to choose from, the SCDE has implemented the School Choice program, which allows students to consider attending a magnet, public charter, virtual, or other public school within their district; this flexibility ensures you’re able to select the best education possible for your student in South Carolina.
To review how these schools rank against one another, visit the SC School Report Card page, which provides detailed information for individual schools and districts. Schools are graded on seven of 10 individual categories:
- Academic Achievement
- Student Progress
- Preparing for Success
- College & Career Ready
- English Learners’ Proficiency
- Graduation Rate
- School Quality
- Classroom Environment
- School Safety
- Financial Information.
Schools are also given an overall rating based on their scores; from highest to lowest the possible scores are Excellent, Good, Average, Below Average, or Unsatisfactory. You can also visit the report card guide the SCDE has compiled to better understand each indicator.
The standardized tests in South Carolina are the PASS exam for grades three through eight, the High School Assessment Program (HSAP) for grade nine, as well as End-of-Course exams.
The South Dakota Department of Education (SDDOE) governs the more than 150 school districts in the state. The state’s high school graduation rate is just above the national average at 85 percent.
Visit the School Report Cards section on the SDDOE’s website for detailed information about specific schools and districts. Note that for individual schools, there is an Overall Score at the top left of the report card; this is calculated using the data collected on each school, and a grade of zero to 100 is awarded.
Each section in both Academics and School Quality break down the data into subgroups, to give a more comprehensive perspective. Students in South Dakota take the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA or SBAC) for both English and math; the South Dakota Science (SDC) is also used.
Right around one million students are enrolled in Tennessee’s public education system, governed by the state’s Department of Education. With core values of excellence, optimism, judgement, courage, and teamwork, the TDOE is committed to high standards in education. For example, Tennessee has implemented four Personalized Learning Strategies to better individualize education for students.
Tennessee is ESSA compliant with their Report Cards, which grade individual schools on up to six categories. On individual categories, schools receive a score of 0 – 4.0, and selecting the category score gives a comparison to previous year data to make overall trends easy to see.
The Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) covers all of the statewide exams required of public school students.
The Texas Education Agency sets standards for public schools in the second largest state in the U.S., which enrolls more than 5 million primary and secondary public school students annually. The state ranks near the top of the list for high school graduation rates, coming in at 89 percent.
Beginning in 2019, Texas campus and district report cards are being published on a new, user-friendly site: TXschools.gov.
For previous years’ data, the Federal Report Cards for Texas Public Schools provide extensive numerical data on student demographics, performance, graduation, and school safety. You can also review Texas Academic Performance Reports and State Report Cards from years past, which dives deep into the data. Districts across the state range from serving 13 students to more than 200,000; be sure to narrow your search by major city or county so as not to get overwhelmed!
The Lone Star State utilizes the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exam for standardized testing, which includes regular End-of-Course or EOC exams. These replaced the previous Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, or TAKS, exam in the 2011-12 academic year.
Utah State Board of Education (USBE) dictates academic regulations for public school students in the state. The statewide high school graduation rate has been steadily increasing since the 2010-11 academic year, moving from 76 percent to over 85 percent.
USBE annually publishes the Utah School Report Card, which outlines performance in Achievement, Growth, English Learner Progress, and Postsecondary Readiness. Schools can earn a score of Developing, Typical, or Commendable for each individual category. Simply search for a school by name to view the report. Take note of the participation rate towards the top left; this will let you know if the scores presented can be considered an accurate representation of the rest of the school, or if the sample is too small.
Students are required to take several assessment exams throughout their primary and secondary schooling years, and these may be referenced on the reports. Some common assessments most Utah students will take are:
- Assessment for Performance toward Proficiency in Languages (AAPPL) – required for students attending a school that participates in the USBE Dual Language Immersion program.
- Civics Exam – a graduation requirement for Utah students, this exam pulls 50 questions from the United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) civics test.
- Readiness Improvement Success Empowerment (RISE).
- Utah Aspire Plus – assesses grades nine and ten in reading, English, math, and science, and provides a predictive score for the ACT.
Visit the Vermont Agency of Education to understand the public education system in the Green Mountain State. Roughly 250 public schools are spread out across the state, and all of them focus on Proficiency-Based Learning that values individualized education for students and flexible pathways to graduation.
Vermont’s Annual Snapshot provides all the information you might want to consider when deciding on a new school or district for the student in your family. The easy-to-read one-page report provides a snapshot on five categories: Academic Proficiency; Personalization; Safe, Healthy Schools; High Quality Staffing; and Investment Priorities. A guide is provided at the top right of the page to explain icons and symbols, and a description of each category underneath its headline makes the overall report very user friendly.
When reviewing the report, it may be helpful to know that Vermont utilizes the Smarter Balanced Assessment for standardized testing in grades three through eight, as well as nine.
Virginia’s Department of Education governs public education for more than 75,000 students, and the state has received numerous accolades for its Special Education programs. The state has a high school graduation rate of 91 percent, which is seven points above the national average.
School Quality Profiles provide a directory to review specific school report cards. The first information you’ll receive is the accreditation status for the selected year, along with a breakdown of the school quality indicators. The indicators are color coded as follows:
- Green – Level 1 – performing at or above state standard
- Yellow – Level 2 – performing near the state standard or improving
- Red – Level 3 – performing below state standard
Tabs across the top and below the accreditation section allow you to easily flip through information to access what you’d like to view.
When reviewing academic performance, you may see SOL referenced repeatedly; this acronym refers to the Standards of Leaning, which is the standardized exam for Virginia public schools.
Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, or OSPI, provides all information on public education in the state of Washington. The state’s high school graduation rate has been gradually increasing, but, at 79 percent, still ranks slightly below the U.S. average of 85 percent.
The comprehensive Washington State Report Cards are easily navigable online; simply search for a district or school by name. Viewing state, district, and school data gives a breakdown of enrollment and demographics, academic performance, and teacher qualifications. In addition to the general Report Card, you can also view the Diversity Report, which includes all report card information broken down into various subgroups.
Like many of their peers in this region, Washington utilizes the Smarter Balanced Assessments for English language arts and mathematics. For science, students take the Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science (WCAS) exam.
The West Virginia Department of Education is responsible for the public education of more than 250,000 students enrolled in the Mountain State. The statewide high school graduation rate is just above 90 percent.
WVDE provides public school report cards in compliance with ESSA. Selecting a specific district will bring up side-by-side information of elementary and middle schools, and high school data is kept in a separate category. Enrollment data, district four and five year graduation rates, and finances are all available at the top of the report.
Of note, statewide exams in West Virginia operate under the West Virginia General Summative Assessment, or WVGSA.
Nearly one million students are enrolled in the public school system in Wisconsin, which is monitored by the state’s Department of Public Instruction, or DPI. The Badger State has seen a growth in statewide high school graduation rates since 2016, reaching just shy of 90 percent.
To become more informed about a specific school or district’s progress and performance, head over to the Report Cards Home, which provides detailed information on academic performance, postsecondary readiness, and support systems for students. The most useful bit of information on the report card is the Overall Score and ranking system. All schools in Wisconsin are evaluated based on four priority areas: Student Achievement, School Growth, Closing Gaps, and On-Track and Postsecondary Readiness. Evaluating these scores on each report card makes comparisons across different schools simple.
You might notice the Overall Score for a school says AR, or Alternate Rating. For schools meeting certain criteria such as low student population or few operating years, an alternate accountability system has been formulated so these schools are not penalized unfairly. These schools will receive a score of Alternate Rating – Satisfactory Progress or Alternate Rating – Needs Improvement.
You may see the Wisconsin Student Assessment System, or WSAS, referenced throughout your research. This indicates the entire testing system in the state, which includes:
- Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) – English and math in grades three through 11; science in grade four, as well as eight through 11; and social studies in grades four, eight, and 10.
- Wisconsin Forward Exam – assesses English and math in grades three through eight; science in grades four and eight; and social studies in grades four, eight, and 10.
- ACT – officially administered in grade 11 with different versions administered in grades nine and 10.
The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) enrolls more than 90,000 students statewide, and is responsible for setting performance standards for all public schools in the state. The state’s 86 percent high school graduation rate is above the national average.
2017-18 School Performance Reports for elementary and middle schools assessed schools based on achievement, growth, equity, and English learner progress. Based on the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act (WAEA), schools can be rated as Exceeding Expectations, Meeting Expectations, Partially Meeting Expectations, or Not Meeting Expectations.
There is also a Federal Accountability assessment based on progress toward goals in English language arts, math, graduation rate, and English learner progress. Schools are ranked based on the support they require in order to meet goals, or Not Identified for schools who are on track to meet targets.
Both state and federal accountability are on the first page of the performance report in a brightly-colored box. The color of the box is based on WAEA state accountability: blue for Exceeding Expectations, green for Meeting Expectations, yellow for Partially Meeting Expectations, and orange for Not Meeting Expectations.
Keep in mind if you want to view data over time, elementary and middle School Performance Reports for prior years are housed in a separate location.
High schools are rated in a similar fashion, with additional factors taken into consideration like graduation rate and postsecondary readiness. Likewise, 2017-18 School Performance Reports for traditional high schools are kept in a separate place from past high school performance records.
Students in Wyoming take the Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress, or WY-TOPP, annually from grades three through 10, as well as the ACT in 11th grade.
Kian Zozobrado joined Builders Digital Experience (BDX) in 2019 as a content writer. A graduate of Southwestern University with a degree in English, Kian is passionate about the written word and making connections. Outside of work, Kian also serves as president of the Board of Directors for the Writers’ League of Texas.