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Ratings: A Yelp (Or Facebook) For Schools?

ScreenHunter_27 Aug. 05 20.30
Folks at the New York Times and Washington Post having been talking about why there isn't yet a Yelp for doctors - a widely used, nationwide ratings website that allows user comments -- but of course my question is why there isn't one for teachers (or for schools, at least, given the issues surrounding value-added ratings)?  Turns out some of the answers are the same.  In Why isn’t there a Yelp for doctors?, the Wonkbook notes that legal complications and data availability play a role, that current and previous attempts have been incomplete or hard to use, and that consumers (aka parents) are hesitant and inconsistent in their interest.  In the NYT's Why the Web Lacks Authoritative Reviews of Doctors, Ron Lieber writes about how hard it is to populate sites with data and comments that make them attractive, and to provide complete and accurate information.  So why not just use Yelp, I wonder, or get Zuckerberg to create 100,000 Facebook pages for schools?

 

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What happened to ratemyteachers.com? Wasn't that a thing?

GreatSchools.net has been doing this for years.

1. Greatschools.net -as CarolineSF notes is basically what you are talking about
2. Jeff Bezzos (Amazon founder) pointed out that most reviews are either 1s or 5s. I get a TV is a 1 or a 5, a TV has finite functionality. Teaching and the role of the teacher can be a bit more difficult to peg down.
3. Going back to Amazon. A good reviewer explains their prejudice in giving a product a specific review. Example: "I was looking for cheap and functional and this is a great second TV" is a lot different than "This TV is cheap." - Given that a good review requires honest information about the reviewer, are parents ready to be that honest as to why they picked the school they did.
4. How many schools can a parent compare. My kid went to this school/teacher for 4 weeks, then this one, then this one, isn't a great review. A school/teacher review needs to stand on its own, and that is a much harder review.
5. As a parent a good online review is helpful to adding a school to my research list, but I know I'm still going to go and visit the school. Cost benefit wise, if I know I'm going to tour a school, why get caught up in online reviews.

Charter schools in Alberta, Canada collect and publish parent (and student, and teacher) ratings of their school as a regular practice; here's a link to one: http://www.ffca-calgary.com/FFCA/Board_Info/Document%20Library/Charter%20Documents/2010_Charter_Evaluation_Report.pdf
This is state of the art, I think, and goes well beyond what most schools produce in the way of public accountability. I don't think Yelp or a Facebook page are anywhere near as informative, and while school accountability report cards are not difficult to come by, I am not a fan of the reduced and distorted information they represent. The last thing we need is to have more educators' careers destroyed by simplified, unreliable, unvetted information releases.

I don't Facebook, and I barely tweet, but I know a lot more about how it moves than you wanna-be manipulators do. I actually live surrounded by very young people with active minds and hearts, and they use it to find their own way to the power we classic progressive educators call "agency". Last night, they made a beautiful event happen; they know their visions can become real, in their own lives, in their own communities.

Today, I'm spending my unpaid furlough morning watching their pictures of themselves and each other in front of their beautiful Unicef banners reverberate, across their own planet.

This whole line of Facebook "rating" discourse is an empty rattling. Of course, opinion molders and opportunists can fantasize a way to use it to their own ends, but Zuckerberg can't "create 100,000 Facebook pages for schools".

I think you may be unclear on this concept of "create".

greatschools and others attempt this, i would argue, but don't actually accomplish it. the data and the pages are there, but not the wide usage.

I'm not sure if Greatschools covers every state these days -- it was started here in San Francisco and may have been only California schools at first. But it does exactly what you're talking about, Alexander. If it's not widely used, perhaps the demand isn't there, or the public isn't aware of it.

As executive editor at GreatSchools, I'll weigh in. We do cover all states in the nation but yes, it's a challenge to keep the data fresh especially since all the states have different kinds of data and different schedules for release. Every year one in three American families with school age kids use our site -- most for the school pages (the data, reviews and other information) when looking for a school but also on article pages about parenting and education.

To be clear Yelp also has some school pages (though the reviews in my experience are more likely to include misspelled ramblings and LOLs aplenty from students) as does Facebook. Facebook school pages are more often run and maintained by the school community or a portion of it like a group of students for instance, and don't have data on them.

The issue we face as an aggregator of data and parent reviews (like Yelp for restaurants) is that we depend on the source material being reliable! This varies from state to state, just as it varies from parent to parent. We are hellbent on making our site better -- adding more qualitative information (since tests are not the measure of all things). We just launched a new official school profile page for principals to tell us details about their school that prospective parents can then search for.

Here's an example for a new one for a California elementary school:
http://www.greatschools.org/california/hacienda-heights/1830-Wedgeworth-Elementary-School/official-info/


school community or a portion of it like a group of students for instance, and don't have data on them.

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