New school district rankings include state’s 4th best teachers and top sports program (15th in US)

by Beth Melo on August 6, 2015

Post image for New school district rankings include state’s 4th best teachers and top sports program (15th in US)

Above: Southborough (and Northborough) K-12 schools scored top marks as a district in recent rankings by Niche.com (Trottier and ARHS photos by Susan Fitzgerald; remaining from school websites)

In the spring, I shared a new ranking organization’s evaluation of our high school. Recently, WCVB news reported that the website, Niche.com, has issued teacher rankings for our state. So, I took another look.

Niche.com’s 2015 K-12 school district rankings listed Northborough-Southborough with an A+ rating, some great individual marks, and a rank of 14th in the state.

But I have to point out that I found serious weaknesses in the ranking system.

First, it appears that they issued the rankings despite missing too much data to include many districts in most of the categories.

So, while we came out 4th best in the state for teachers, we were only compared to 53 districts for that.

We can also boast our teachers are the best in the Worcester Metro Area, but were only compared to 5 other districts for that ranking. (Good news is, we can say that we beat out nearby Shrewsbury.)

School districts not in either comparisons for teacher rankings include Hopkinton, Westborough, Ashland, and Weston.

Meanwhile, our other rankings ranged in comparing us versus 121 districts to 289.

Another weakness in the rankings is how they were determined.

For instance, I’m guessing that even THawk fans would be surprised by our district earning a 15th in nation ranking for best sports program.

According to the website, factors used were # of sports offered, % of female and male athletes, and parent/student surveys. They apparently also included total district expenses per student (not expense spent on athletics per student.)*

A small number of completed student/parent surveys were used in most of the rankings, with no detail given as to how heavily they were weighed. (There was a minimum requirement of 10 responses. Our district averaged 20 surveys per category.)

Still our numbers look good. So here are some more highlights: 

  • Best sports program in state (out of 159 districts); 15th in the nation (vs. 4,951)
  • Best facilities in state (of 121 districts)**
  • Best district in Worcester Metro Area (of 53); 14th in state (of 122)
  • Best Outcomes in Worcester Metro Area (of 19); 23rd in state (of 131)
  • Top place to teach in Worcester Metro Area (of 54); 14th in state (of 221)
  • Best extracurriculurs in Worcester Metro Area (of 33); 12th in state (of 168)
  • 2nd best academics in Worcester Metro Area (of 53); 19th in state (of 225)
  • Best administration in Worcester Metro Area (of 11); 12th in state (of 101)

Disappointingly, (perhaps due to our district composition or lack of data) they were unable to compare Southborough’s K-8 programs or individual schools in the elementary and middle school rankings. (Except for diversity rankings, in which we were below average.)

For a better look at the rankings and criteria, click here.

*The $15,484 expense per student was the same figure used in all other ranking that included that criteria, including: administration, safety, extracurriculars, facilities, and best food!

**I’m guessing that having the best facilities in state might stick in the craw of those who think we spend too much on buildings. So, I want to point out the criteria included resources with a look at counseler to student and teacher to student ratios, plus our rankings for “best food”. And once again, the total expense per student (not $ spent on overhead vs staff) was a criteria.

Previous post:

Next post: