Understanding School Quality

What Does A Quality School Look Like?

School quality is determined by how well students perform at a given school, in addition to the environment a school creates for their students. A high-quality school will have following positive characteristics:


• Students are engaged in a rigorous curriculum that pushes them to think critically.
• Lessons are taught in a variety of ways to reach all types of learners.
• Most students are reading on or above grade level.
• Students are making continued growth on state standardized (STAAR) tests.
• Teachers and staff monitor student progress and use data to determine how to best teach.


• Students are challenged and supported to achieve ambitious goals
• Students feel safe and happy when at school
• Students have clubs, sports, and different programs they can be involved in
• Behavior and discipline are handled effectively and do not distract students from learning
• There are high expectations for students and staff
• School administrators and teachers are always looking for ways they can improve


• Every student has caring and respecting relationships with teachers and staff
• There is a mix of new and returning teachers who are passionate and dedicated
• Parents are encouraged by the teachers and staff to get involved in their child’s education
Although the list above does not include all of the possible characteristics that make up a quality school, it does provide you with a starting point for things to look for as you determine the right school for your child.

How Do We Rank And Grade School Quality?

To provide parents and communities with helpful information on how schools are performing, CHILDREN AT RISK ranks over 7,000 elementary, middle, and high schools across the state of Texas. Through this information, parents, schools, and school districts are able to identify strengths in their schools, as well as opportunities for learning and improvement.
Every year, we assign schools an A-F letter grade based on a school’s performance on the following items:
  1. How a school’s students perform on Reading and Math STAAR tests
  2. How a school’s students perform compared to other schools with similar resources
  3. The growth that individual students show over time on the STAAR tests
  4. High school graduation rates, SAT/ACT participation rate and scores, and AP/IB class participation rate and test scores (high schools only)

    Click here for more information on how we rank schools.

These rankings provide some information about your child’s school and the quality of education he or she is receiving. However, there are other factors that could influence your child’s experience at school. To understand additional factors that may shape your child’s experience at his or her school, check out the “What Are My School Options?” guide.

What Does a “D” or “F” Rating Say About My Child’s School?

When looking up your child’s school grade and ranking, you may be worried that it received a low grade. To help you make sense of what this may mean, below are a few key characteristics of a typical “D” or “F” campus:
• Schools that receive a “D” or “F” grade are performing below their peers on the STAAR tests and experience less growth than other campuses with similar students.
• Students at these schools, on average, are behind in reading, math, Algebra I, and/or English I and II skills
• Students at these schools also tend to receive lower scores on the SAT or ACT, and may not be considered college-ready
If your child attends a “D” or “F” school, it is important to consider that he or she may not be ready to transition to the next grade or the next educational step. However, this does not mean that every student at a “D” or “F” school is unprepared or not college-ready. As mentioned above, school quality is not only determined by academic performance. Therefore, we recognize that a child could be having a great experience at a “D” or “F” school.
There are many other important factors at a school such as the social or emotional support your child is receiving or extracurricular activities that are offered that support your child in ways that our rankings are unable to consider. If you are a parent of a child at a “D” or “F” school, you have a few options for your child’s education.
  1.  You can choose to stay at your child’s school and create an “A” experience for your child.
  2.  You can choose to stay at your child’s school and advocate for change to help improve the quality of the school.
  3. You can look for other school options for your child.

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