Some studies indicate that school ratings like those by GreatSchools may increase economic, social and racial divides between communities.

A 2019 study from researchers at Duke University and the University of Florida found evidence that widespread access to GreatSchools school ratings led to greater gaps in housing values, income distribution and education levels across communities.

“Affluent and more educated families were better positioned to leverage this new information to capture educational opportunities in communities with the best schools,” according to the report.

The study found that home values increased in communities with highly rated schools after GreatSchools ratings became available, making it more difficult for lower income families to move into the community. The proportion of white and Asian families in the community also grew.

“An unintended consequence of better information was less, rather than more, equity in education,” according to the report.

GreatSchools has changed its methodology since data for this study was collected, placing a greater emphasis on academic progress rather than standardized test scores in their ratings.

In 2022, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Blueprint Labs, in partnership with GreatSchools, found that standardized test scores are highly correlated with race. Academic progress ratings were not, and were found to predict school quality much more accurately than standardized test scores. The study also suggested other ways GreatSchools and similar school rating organizations can improve their ratings.

According to GreatSchools CEO Jon Deane, the study from MIT’s Blueprint Labs validates the direction GreatSchools is headed, “emphasizing quality measures that better indicate what’s happening in schools, adding new data types, and giving school leaders and parents more opportunity to share what makes their schools great.”

He said GreatSchools is committed to using research insights to help evolve the organization’s methodology to better support parents, particularly those from families who have historically been underserved by the education system.

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