Please stop yakking about school ratings

Okay, I have a beef to pick with parents.

Yes, I recognize that there is variation in the quality of education provided by different schools. Also, I understand that as a parent you want to make the best effort you can to provide your child with the best quality education available.

But, for Pete’s sake, please don’t talk about school ratings in front of kids.

Any kids. Not yours, not mine, nobody’s.

Here’s why I’m bothered by this.

There’s a thing called the Pygmalion Effect, which “is the phenomenon whereby others’ expectations of a target person affect the target person’s performance.” (Thank you, Wikipedia).

So when you badmouth the local elementary school for only having four stars out of ten, you’re sending a message that the kids who go to that school are basically four stars out of ten on an academic scale.

This attitude gets telegraphed to your kids and to any other kids, setting up a vicious cycle of low expectations and low achievement.

Imagine for a moment that you’re a child going to an average school, one that has very middle of the road ratings. You’re a good student, you’re diligent with your homework and do the best you can to make the most of the education that is available to you.

How would you feel if someone then starts talking about some nearby school that has a ten out of ten rating, and how tough the academics are, and how rich the academic offerings are at that school? Would you feel like your 4.0 GPA is as valuable as a 4.0 at that 10-star school?

I guess I’m sensitive on this subject because I grew up hearing all about how my state (Arizona) was ranked 48th in the nation for school performance. On top of that, I was aware that the schools on the east side of my metropolitan area were generally more highly regarded than the schools on the west side, which is where I was.

Getting an education is important for everyone, and everyone deserves to feel that the effort they put into their studies will make a difference.

Not only that, but school ratings can never capture the whole picture of what any school, class or teacher offers their students.

Maybe the school is only average in test scores, but there is a biology teacher who has a knack for inspiring students to get serious about science, or an English teacher who goes all out to support a Debate team.

As I talk about in the Random Discovery Happiness post, you often won’t discover these gems by researching externally calculated rankings.

So, please, can we all shut up about school ratings?