Methodology (2013)

Since 2006, the high school ranking system developed by CHILDREN AT RISK has highlighted the successes and need for improvement of Houston area high schools. As an advocacy organization, the purpose of the rankings is not only to provide a tool to parents and students, but also provide information to campuses and districts on how they perform relative to their peers and on successful models of high performing public schools. In 2009, CHILDREN AT RISK began to include all eligible high schools in the state of Texas as well as extend the ranking system to include eligible elementary and middle school campuses. Thus far, the CHILDREN AT RISK rankings have proven to be instrumental in generating conversations among educators and the public regarding methods for improving our public education system.

While there are a myriad of factors responsible for the overall success or failure of a campus, the data used in CHILDREN AT RISK’s ranking system represents a compilation of factors that indicate the degree to which a campus has prepared students for secondary and post-secondary success. The data used were obtained from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and are reported for the most recent year available. Much like the methodology used by other institutions to rank higher education programs (e.g. MBA programs and law schools), CHILDREN AT RISK’s method uses the z-score statistic to standardize the data compared to all campuses across the state and compute a ranking among campuses included in the analysis.

When the 14 variables used for CHILDREN AT RISK’s high school rankings are examined in conjunction with each other, they provide a more accurate assessment of how well a campus has prepared students for a post-secondary education. Included indicators are specifically geared toward determining the college-readiness of graduates:

  • TAKS Commended Reading (5%)
  • TAKS Commended Math (5%)
  • Recommended High School Program (2.5%)
  • Advanced Courses (5%)
  • AP/IB Test-Takers (5%)
  • AP/IB Students Passing (5%)
  • Attendance Rate (7.5%)
  • Graduation Rate (15%)
  • SAT/ACT Test-Takers (5%)
  • Mean SAT Score (5%)
  • Mean ACT Score (5%)
  • Percent Economically Disadvantaged (20%)
  • Reading Gain/Loss (7.5%)
  • Math Gain/Loss (7.5%)

Similarly, a middle school campus has data for 8 variables and elementary campuses have data for 14 variables that provide a picture of how primary schools are preparing students for secondary and post-secondary success. Middle schools are evaluated based on the following variables:

  • STAAR Advanced Reading (10%)
  • STAAR Advanced Math (10%)
  • Attendance Rate (15%)
  • Retention Rate, Grade 7 (5%)
  • Retention Rate, Grade 8 (5%)
  • Percent Economically Disadvantaged (25%)
  • Reading Gain/Loss (15%)
  • Math Gain/Loss (15%)

Criteria for elementary campuses are as follows:

  • STAAR Advanced Reading – 3rd Grade (10%)
  • STAAR Advanced Reading – 4th Grade (10%)
  • STAAR Advanced Math (10%)
  • Attendance Rate (10%)
  • Class Size, Grade 1 (5%)
  • Class Size, Grade 2 (5%)
  • Class Size, Grade 3 (5%)
  • Retention Rate, Grade 1 (2.5%)
  • Retention Rate, Grade 2 (2.5%)
  • Retention Rate, Grade 3 (2.5%)
  • Retention Rate, Grade 4 (2.5%)
  • Percent Economically Disadvantaged (20%)
  • Reading Gain/Loss (7.5%)
  • Math Gain/Loss (7.5%)

One adjustment variable is included for all campuses. Research has consistently shown that poverty is a predictor of whether or not a student will graduate and achieve post-secondary academic success. The percentage of students that are economically disadvantaged at each campus is thus included in the rankings analysis. CHILDREN AT RISK assumes a school must put forth more effort to retain and support these students through primary and secondary education. For this reason, these schools are given credit for having this at-risk student population.


The full methodology is available to download here: School Rankings Methodology 2013.

Questions about the School Rankings methodology may be directed to Caroline Neary at Provide your feedback here!

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