In a Nutshell: Parents want their children to succeed but often don’t know where to turn for information on how to best support their children while they are in school. GreatSchools provides the answer to this quandary with a website packed with articles, interactive tools, and other resources to help empower parents to be advocates for their children. It also provides profiles for all public K-12 schools in the country and most private schools as well. Setting children up for success in grade school and high school can deliver big benefits down the road, whether that means landing a scholarship and avoiding student loan debt or simply helping them prep for a successful career in the real world.
Parents want their children to be afforded every opportunity to succeed, which means helping them gain access to a quality education. A solid educational foundation can set children up to excel in college and beyond.
It can also help them — through scholarships and other opportunities — avoid the burden of student loan debt. Honestly, avoiding any debt, student loan or not, can give young people a notable advantage once they are out in the real world.
As a parent and someone who has dealt with student loan debt, I support these goals. Once I became a parent, I quickly realized how important it is to make sure your child has access to quality schools and educators.
GreatSchools is an online resource that provides information for parents looking to set their children up for a successful, and debt-free, future.
“GreatSchools is the leading national nonprofit empowering parents to unlock educational opportunities for their child,” according to the organization website. “Families, community leaders, and policy-makers turn to GreatSchools for the school information they need to guide children to great futures.”
We recently had the opportunity to speak with GreatSchools CEO Jon Deane about the nonprofit’s mission, the vast resources it makes available to parents, and how it rates nearly every K-12 school in the country.
Empowering Parents to Unlock Educational Opportunities for Their Children
“Decades of research has shown that when parents are engaged in their children’s education, they have at least as much influence as teachers do in boosting student achievement,” Deane said. “So the early work of the organization has been about how we can help parents get really involved and educate them.”
GreatSchools does this by providing a wealth of information as well as a framework for how parents can help support their children and take action, he explained.
“We know that too often low-income parents lack the tools or resources they need or the clear information to be able to help their kids succeed,” Deane said. “So we try to get them that firsthand information to be able to unlock pathways for their kids.”
Deane said he was drawn to GreatSchools because of the opportunity to help shape and influence a tool that’s used by millions of parents across the country every year.
“And also to help shed light on where schools are doing a really outstanding job supporting kids, and how we can really elevate what’s happening in those schools so others can learn from them,” he said. “And also, how can we continually evolve and help meet the needs of parents and what they’re looking for when they want to learn about helping their kids.”
The vast resources available through GreatSchools include thousands of articles, tips, and interactive tools to help parents support their children’s learning and well-being on a day-to-day basis.
It all comes down to empowering parents and arming them with information to help their children succeed in school and beyond.
Providing Ratings and Profiles on Nearly Every K-12 School in the Country
Among GreatSchools’ notable offerings are its evaluations on the impact, quality, and effectiveness of schools around the country.
“GreatSchools’ trusted ratings and school information help parents find the right school for their family and improve schools in their communities,” according to the nonprofit.
“What we’re primarily known for is a set of school profiles that help parents understand school quality,” Deane said. “We have a profile for every K-12 public school and almost every school of any kind in the country.”
GreatSchools’ school profiles include information on a school’s college readiness, academic improvement over time, and diversity. Profiles also rate schools on how well they work to close the achievement gap by measuring academic progress for all students in a school, the CEO explained.
“Those components come together on our profile along with a bunch of other information tools for helping parents compare across schools, to search within an area for different types of schools, and easy explanations about what the information means and how parents can take action,” Deane said. “We also have community reviews because we believe it’s really important for parents’ voices to be heard.
The organization also provides tools for parents to weigh in with their own input about the schools their children attend, which helps parents share information with one another.
The website includes district overviews that show all schools in a community to help parents compare schools across or between districts, Deane said.
“We know parents everywhere care about their kids, and they want to help their kids succeed,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where they are, who they are or their backgrounds.”
In addition to information related to school performance, GreatSchools provides tips on how parents can get directly involved and help support a school.
“We also have hundreds of thousands of people who get weekly guidance from us,” Deane said. “We have free grade-based parenting newsletters. We publish everything in English and Spanish. All of that is done to say, ‘Wherever you are as a parent, we want to be able to help support you in that process.”
College Success Awards Recognize Schools that Prepare Students for a Successful College Career
Here at CardRates, college student loan debt is a topic that comes up fairly regularly, so we were particularly interested to learn more about GreatSchools College Success Awards.
“Our nation’s high schools play a vital role in preparing students to succeed in college and beyond,” according to GreatSchools. “For the third straight year, we are proud to honor public high schools that have a successful track record of going beyond simply graduating students to helping them enroll in college and succeed once they get there.”
The 2020 GreatSchools College Success Award recognizes 2,158 schools, representing about 21% of eligible public high schools across 29 states.
“When we identify those schools that are performing particularly well in a certain set of criteria we create a badge, and we put it on the profile,” Deane said.
Of course, GreatSchools also likes to help schools learn from each other when possible. That’s why the website explores the educational approaches of the award-winning schools. It also highlights 10 key strategies that the award-winning schools have in common.
“The College Success Award aims to shine a light on high schools across the country that are enabling their students to succeed beyond graduation,” according to the website. GreatSchools has a particular focus on highlighting effective schools for students from low-income families.
The goal of highlighting these schools is to uncover the outperformers, as well as find out more about their practices, including dual enrollment in community colleges and high school courses that can fulfill college credits, which saves families money in the long run.
“What lessons have they learned about supporting struggling students? What’s different about what they do compared to other schools?” according to the GreatSchools website.
Continuing to Find New Ways to Help Parents Support Effective Education
“We’re really excited about the year ahead and sort of more grounded than ever in our belief in the power of education to support a strong democracy,” Deane said.
GreatSchools is constantly evolving and expanding how it can better serve all parents and families while remaining focused on equity and advocate for new transparency and data, he said.
“We’re going to continue to expand how we do this with stories about schools that are really successful with best practices, with a broader picture of the outcomes of schools, and the practices that are happening in those schools to get those outcomes,” Deane explained.