November is when college football fans, players and coaches can get totally distracted by the formulas used to create the college bowl championships. If not for the vast amounts of money involved, it’s doubtful that many institutions of higher education would even consider asking student-athletes and coaches to tack on another month of preparation for one game. Regardless of the computer models and human energy invested in getting the top teams aligned, there is inevitable controversy and often huge disappointment. In the final analysis very few people will remember who played in the bowl games. The coaches and their players will have the bonds and memories they created over a year or years of preparation and competition. Those relationships and lessons will far outlast any single game.
Independent schools across the United States have fought getting dragged into the multi-million dollar ranking game that US News and World Report and other news agencies sell to the public. We have watched as universities adjust their admissions process and procedures to go up on these lists. We have watched funding become misdirected from student-centered programming and instead go to areas that benefit rankings at the cost of student learning.
One of the beauties of private independent education in America is that our schools are free to establish our own missions. We can set our own curriculum geared for our students. We can hire teachers who, regardless of their state credentials, will have the expertise to challenge and inspire our students. We are not tethered to the ever-growing number of testing programs administered by states.
To be clear, we at Shorecrest are proud when our students attend and graduate from prestigious universities. We are equally proud of our students who may need academic support through The Learning Center and go on to be successful at Shorecrest and in college.
We are proud of the innovations that are happening throughout the curriculum and at every grade level. The focus on skills that will teach students to know how to work collaboratively, to be problem solvers, to be makers and to be good citizens are not easily measured and therefore, ignored in rankings.
Throughout our lives we have met incredible people who attended an unknown university or perhaps never graduated from college. I will not deny that being surrounded by a school full of talented, ambitious and focused students adds value to one’s education. Those of us who have worked in public and private schools have observed first-hand the benefit of being around a community committed to excellence. At the same time, we have seen amazing students and teachers emerge as superstars from lesser known schools. Ranking agencies cannot make as much money if they focus on the success stories of smaller, lesser known schools. They cannot make their money focusing on innovation because the innovation is way ahead of the metrics the rankers are using.
In sum - know that rankings are limited to the data gathered and to the metrics used determined to measure success. The rankers’ metrics and values may not be what is best for your child and certainly may be a complete disservice to parents and educators who are working to make independent schools unique learning environments and an alternative to public, charter and for-profit options.
A visit to Shorecrest or any other private-independent school may take more time than it takes to skim a list of schools ranked with metrics that may not have anything to do with what is best for your child. Take the time. We would prefer to let you be the judge for what is right for your child.