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Photo by Sue Ogrocki/The Associated Press

New York — The Manhattan Institute (MI) and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) today announced the launch of SchoolGrades.org, a new website to grade and compare America’s schools.

Based on the belief that parents across the country should be able to easily and accurately compare schools’ performance, researchers Jacob Vigdor and Josh McGee culled data from U.S. elementary and middle schools to create an innovative new rating system. The system takes into account how each school compares to national and international standards while also accounting for the particular challenge of educating economically disadvantaged students, who on average begin kindergarten with much lower levels of school readiness.

Among many findings, the results show that:

  • Schools receiving an “A" can be found in all 50 states. However, there are large disparities between states. For example, in Mississippi and West Virginia, roughly 5 percent of schools receive an “A,” whereas in states like Massachusetts and Connecticut, the majority of schools receive an “A” (70 percent and 50 percent respectively).
  • Many of America’s best schools are in cities rather than suburbs.
    • The ten best schools in the state of New York are all in New York City.
    • The two best-performing schools in New Jersey are in Elizabeth.
    • Ohio’s top five schools are in Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Toledo.
    • The best school in Pennsylvania is in Philadelphia, and the top school in Illinois is in Chicago.
  • Charter schools outperform public schools in 11 states. These states include Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Los Angeles, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.

Unlike most school ratings systems, which base results on each particular state’s tests — and standards that vary wildly from state to state — SchoolGrades.org compares all schools using a common benchmark. It applies a rigorous national standard (based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam) to state testing data so that users can more accurately compare schools across the country. SchoolGrades.org also differs by taking into account the economic profile of the student population at any given school, giving extra credit to schools that serve economically disadvantaged students and holding schools that serve affluent students to a higher standard. Lastly, SchoolGrades.org compares U.S. student performance to the performance of students in the international community based on how each U.S. school would rank internationally in comparison to the performance of students in more than 60 countries on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam. Schools earning an “A” from Schoolgrades.org — which serve 23 percent of American students — are on par with the best schools in the world.