A heads up from the wonderful world of data: California just released rankings that compare schools based on how they did on state tests last spring. Here’s the list of scores and rankings for San Diego Unified schools.

If you’re not the kind of person who jumps at numbers, here’s why these rankings are worth checking out. They tell you how a school did on state tests compared to other schools statewide, and they also tell you how it did to schools with similar challenges, which I find even more interesting.

For instance, if you check out that list of San Diego Unified schools, you’ll see that Promise Charter in Chollas View ranks a 6 statewide. The scale runs from 1 to 10 with 1 at the bottom and 10 at the top, so that means Promise does a little better than average compared to schools across California.

But Promise has a “similar schools rank” of 10, which means it’s doing very, very well compared to schools with similar demographics. Similar schools are grouped based on poverty, student transiency, ethnic makeup, the percentage of English learners and other characteristics.

Why factor in all these things when looking at schools? Well, test scores may tell you how a student scored when they took the test, but they don’t tell you how much they improved.

If kids come in with lots of disadvantages, they’re likely to start off far behind, which means even if they improve a lot, their scores may be lower than kids who start off ahead of them. So looking at similar schools gives you a rough sense of whether a school is performing well in light of its challenges or not.

Students are in the throes of testing season right now, so these rankings will soon be outdated as California scores those tests to find out how schools performed this year. (The new rankings won’t come out for another year.) But the data is better late than never. Spot something interesting? Drop me a line!

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/emilyschoolsyou.

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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