Milton Drops to #6 in MA on Niche’s Private School Ranking
by Idone Rhodes on Friday, February 24th, 2017
Niche.com, a website specializing in ranking and rating schools, recently listed Milton Academy as the sixth best private high school in Massachusetts in 2017. To rank schools, the website compares features such as SAT/ACT scores, college enrollment, culture and diversity, student to teacher ratios, and parent and student responses about overall experience. The website also gives schools overall grades for factors like college readiness, sports, clubs and activities, and academics.
Despite the popularity of Niche, and other similar websites, amongst parents and students considering schools, the rankings often miss key components and are not necessarily representative of what each school has to offer. In the breakdown of the ranking system, 30% of a school’s rank is based on its average SAT/ACT. However, when considering the validity of these rankings, one should consider more than just standardized test scores.
Ms. Bonenfant believes that “the only thing a standardized test score tells you is how well you happened to do on a particular test on a particular day.” Standardized tests only make up a few hours of a student’s high school experience. While the results of these tests are meaningful to each individual student, scores do not capture the overall knowledge and experience people gain through their high school experiences.
Another alarming part of the ranking system is the methodology behind the culture and diversity rating. Many students see diversity as a key component of a school since diversity introduces new perspectives and life experiences into a community. That said, Niche weighs culture and diversity as only 10% of a school’s ranking and considers only race and gender in its rating. Omitting factors like socioeconomic status, religion, family structure, nationality, and ethnicity, Niche fails to provide a true picture of diversity.
Additionally, Niche completely excludes some vital aspects of a private school experience in its rankings. While Niche does grade clubs, activities, and athletics, it fails to include these facets in its rankings. Students and parents therefore miss seeing the opportunities offered by each school.
Student and parent responses are also used heavily in the rankings, but there is no vetting for the reviewers. All you need to do to review a school is create an account on the website. This lack of oversight compromises the legitimacy of the ranking system as it becomes majorly unverifiable.
Most importantly, Niche’s ranking does not include the individual traits of each school that distinguish it from others. Niche’s ranking of Milton Academy suggests that Milton’s main downfall is its SAT/ACT scores, seeing as every other component of Milton’s ranking is equal to or higher than the top ranked school’s. Niche’s methodology ignores what makes Milton such a unique and exciting place.
When asked what she thinks distinguishes Milton from other top private schools, Ms. Bonenfant noted, “The students are what make Milton the wonderful place that it is… It’s almost impossible to describe ‘the Milton student’ because they are all so different… We have athletes, musicians, actors, political activists, and scholars… We have people that are any combination of all those different things.”
For Anna Murray (IV), Milton’s diverse boarding community sets Milton apart from other schools. She comments that, “Unlike other schools… we have a lot of international students. There are different points of view from outside of the United States. If everyone were from the United States, you would never get that mesh of what the real world is like.”
Whether or not one believes that ranking websites hold value in the school decision-making process, Niche does not represent the heart of the schools that it ranks. Niche attempts to standardize all schools, a process which rids each one of the distinguishing characteristics which truly shape its students’ experiences.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=8668