When Rankings Are An Illusion

Parents (and many board members) crave a ranking system for independent and (especially) international schools. That there is no standardized and agreed-upon system or clearinghouse for such rankings frustrates parents and convinces many board members that the avoidance of such things is self-serving for heads of school. This item, about rating schemes for physicians, reveals the problem that lurks within almost every ratings framework: how can one trust that the rankings are both truthful and objective?

This article from the CBC in Canada reveals a major weakness in one set of seemingly objective ratings of doctors. A physician who had just received a negative review on one common web site was offered to have the comments removed … for a fee! If one can pay to block negative reviews, then how credible and useful are the ratings in the first place?

At the same time, we understand the craving for accurate, third-party information. Private school can be both the biggest financial investment a family can make (US$400K and up per child) and can have the most potential risk (will our children be ok in the long run?). Against that risk, one can understand the desire for ratings and rankings.

The problem, of course, is that education is an industry that runs on trust, and there is little in modern life to suggest such trust is well founded. Since “trust me” is dead, how else do we have honest conversations about schools and students?


Business and leadership, Governance, Headship, Strategy  |  permalink

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