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About Niche's K-12 Rankings

What Makes Niche the Leader in K-12 School Rankings?

Choosing a school is one of the most important decisions a parent will make for their child. Niche understands this, and has worked to build the most complete, accurate, and transparent school search tool on the internet. This tool is powered by our comprehensive school rankings. Our commitment to helping families find where they belong has pushed us to make our 2022 Niche School Rankings the best yet.

What's New in 2022?

Quite a bit has changed in the past year, especially for families with children in school. Schools went remote, activities were canceled, and we all spent a lot more time at home. One thing that sets Niche's rankings apart is we consider the entire student experience, including what students do after high school, and the college search process — specifically college entrance exams — were greatly impacted during the last year. As a result of this change, we have updated our methodology to de-emphasize the importance of SAT and ACT scores. Niche made the decision for several reasons: an increasing number of institutions adopting test-optional policies, challenges making appointments to test in-person due to COVID-19, and acknowledgment of socioeconomic and racial disparities perpetuated by standardized tests. As of the 2022 Best Schools rankings release, the weight for any factor that considers standardized test scores has been reduced by one-third. Niche chose to reduce instead of eliminating SAT and ACT factors because, despite the growing movement toward test-optional admissions, many colleges still require test scores and the future of standardized testing remains unclear. As things continue to change and evolve, Niche is committed to continually improving our process and methodology to ensure our rankings can be trusted to make such an important decision.

More Opinions from Real Students and Parents

Niche has nearly 2.5 million school reviews from real students, parents, and teachers—more school reviews than any other place on the internet. This gives an unparalleled, honest view into what people really think about a school. We get deep too, asking questions about everything from college prep to cafeteria food.

The Most Rigorous Data Analysis

No other site gives more time and attention to collecting and cleaning data than Niche. Our data analysts are dedicated to constantly reevaluating the data we collect to make certain our stats are up-to-date, accurate, and complete. Our data is the backbone of our ranking algorithms, and we are serious about its accuracy and completeness.

Learn More About Our Data

We Capture the Full Experience

Though quality data is a priority, at Niche, we know that a school is more than a collection of stats. No matter what parents are looking for in a school, Niche is there to help them find the best fit for their child. We go beyond academic achievement, grading schools in areas like sports, diversity, and quality of school administration, keeping constant our commitment to detail and accuracy.

We've worked hard to craft our rankings as a blend of student and parent reviews alongside dependable data. This is why millions of families have come to rely on Niche for making one of life's big decisions.

How Do We Calculate Rankings and Grades?

Our rankings and grades are calculated using a series of steps to ensure statistical rigor and useful guidance in the school choice experience. In general, the process used to calculate each ranking was as follows:

  1. First, we carefully selected each ranking’s factors to represent a healthy balance between statistical rigor and practical relevance in the ranking.
  2. Next, we evaluated the data for each factor to ensure that it provided value for the ranking. (The factor needed to help distinguish schools from each other and accurately represent each school.) Because there are different factor types, we processed them differently:
    • Factors built from Niche user data and student/parent-submitted surveys were based on aggregated data/responses across each school. We logically have a higher degree of confidence in the aggregated score for schools with more responses, so a Bayesian method was applied to reflect this confidence.
    • Factors built from factual information were inspected for bad data including outliers or inaccurate values. Where applicable, this data was either adjusted or completely excluded depending on the specific data.
  3. After each factor was processed, we produced a standardized score (called a z-score) for each factor at each school. This score evaluated distance from the average using standard deviations and allows each school's score to be compared against others in a statistically sound manner.
  4. With clean and comparable data, we then assigned weights for each factor. The goal of the weighting process was to ensure that no one factor could have a dramatic positive or negative impact on a particular school’s final score and that each school’s final score was a fair representation of the school’s performance. Weights were carefully determined by analyzing:
    • How different weights impacted the distribution of ranked schools;
    • Niche parent and student user preferences and industry research;
  5. After assigning weights, an overall score was calculated for each school by applying the assigned weights to each school's individual factor scores. This overall score was then assigned a new standardized score (again a z-score, as described in step 3). This was the final score for each ranking.
  6. With finalized scores, we then evaluated the completeness of the data for each individual school. Depending on how much data the school had, we might have disqualified it from the numerical ranking or from the grading process. Here is how we distinguished these groups using the weights described in step 4:
    • Schools missing the data for 50 percent or more of the factors (by weight) were completely excluded. They did not qualify for the numerical ranking or a grade.
    • Schools that had at least 50 percent of the factors (by weight) but lacked one or more of the required factors were not included in the numerical ranking but were assigned a grade according to the process outlined in step 7 below.
    • Schools that had all of the required factors (by weight) were deemed eligible for both a grade and a numerical ranking.
  7. Lastly, we created a numerical ranking and assigned grades (based on qualifications discussed in step 6). Here is how we produced these values:
    • The numerical ranking was created by ordering each school (when qualified) based on the final z-score discussed in step 5.
    • Grades were determined for each school (when qualified) by taking the ordered z-scores (which generally follow a normal distribution) and then assigning grades according to the process below.

Grading Process

Grades are assigned based on how each school performs compared to all other schools included in the ranking by using the following distribution of grades and z-scores. While most rankings generally follow this normal distribution, there are slight variances across each ranking, so the actual counts and distribution may vary.

GradeFinal Z-ScoreFrequencyCumulative Frequency
(Score at least)
A+1.96 ≤  z2.5%2.5%
A1.28 ≤  z < 1.967.5%10.0%
A-0.84 ≤  z < 1.2810.0%20.0%
B+0.44 ≤  z < 0.8413.0%33.0%
B0.00 ≤  z < 0.4417.0%50.0%
B--0.44 ≤  z < 017.0%67.0%
C+-0.84 ≤  z < -0.4413.0%80.0%
C-1.28 ≤  z < -0.8410.0%90.0%
C--1.96 ≤  z < -1.287.5%97.5%
D+-2.25 ≤  z < -1.961.3%98.8%
D-2.50 ≤  z < -2.250.6%99.4%
D--2.50 > z0.6%100.0%

Note that we intentionally did not assign a grade below D- to any schools in any rankings.

Please Note: Rankings are only published once a year and were most recently released on September 17, 2021. Due to the annual release, rankings and grades can become out-of-date as new facts and information become available. Such data will be incorporated into the next year’s rankings. Niche takes steps to ensure data integrity, but rankings may be inaccurate if Niche is supplied with inaccurate data from schools, data sources such as the US Department of Education, or spam and automated 'bot' reviews.

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