I remember growing up, never paying much attention to how ‘good’ my school was, or whether or not we indeed were making sure ‘no child’ was ‘left behind.’ In fact, my days as a school kid were spent blissfully unaware. Running around playing Chase Master was pretty much the only thing I didn’t want to get ‘left behind’ on. But now, as a father, I continually find myself in a constant state of vigilance — looking into school ratings, parent feedback, test scores, what my friends say, what their friends say and…..well, you get the drift. To add to my already full plate of worries, it seems that everywhere I look, I see education news on the forefront. From last year’s controversial “Waiting For Superman” school documentary, to President Obama’s recent stirrings to alter the No Child Left Behindprogram started by his predecessor, the call to address our education system is once again omnipresent. And, lying beneath the surface of all of these stirrings is one simple concept: Rankings Are Everything.
As a kid, your ranking on the social ladder dictated how high (or low) you got picked for a friendly game of kickball. (Disclosure: I’m pretty sure I was bottom 3 for 95% of my sham battle games. I guess my side-part hair, Members-Only jacket and homemade Jams shorts didn’t exactly scream “natural athlete”) In high school, your ranking amongst your classmates put you in a nail-biting race to separate yourself from the pack on the track to college. As an undergrad, your rank on the social, economic and academic scale dictated your job placement, fraternity membership, and whether or not you got the invite to the impromptu kegger at so-and-so’s house. Ranking is everywhere, and it’s followed me right back to elementary school. But now, it’s not me that I’m worried about. Sorry Emma, but in this world, it seems that I seriously need to be concerned about your entire academic future before you hit the age of 3.That’s why, I find myself getting a little antsy around May of every year, when Honolulu Magazinehas typically compiled its ‘Grading The Public Schools’ report. Since 2003, they’ve issued the rankings of Hawaii’s roughly 257 public schools a total of 5 times. It’s put together by using the Department of Education’s very own data set, comprised of standardized reading and math scores along with satisfaction surveys of students, parents and teachers.
Putting these rankings together has created a subculture of it’s own — full of zealous communities all over our islands, each spouting the respective rankings of their nearby schools. Buying a home in the right community with the right school is a HUGE driving factor for many home buyers, oftentimes driving up demand (and prices) in areas with the top ranked schools. For our communities, the rankings become a source of pride (or shame, sad to say) for everyone to rally around. For parents, getting their children into the right school seemingly assures their future in society, and it’s hard not to get caught up in it all. That’s one reason I’ll be the first in line when Honolulu Magazine prints its new report.Stay tuned to Beyond Honolulu — we’ll be here with the full impact of the new report when it hits newsstands, offering our own unique perspectives on how it can and will continue to influence our communities.Feel free to check out the 2010 report that Honolulu magazine put out. Here you can see where your child’s school ranks. Honolulu Magazine’s 2010 report, Grading The Public Schools.