Since American education is organized and fragmented by state, it makes sense that this Grey House directory of public school information is arranged that same way. The Comparative Guide to American Elementary & Secondary Schools provides district profiles and comparative rankings for the more than 80 percent of school districts in the country with more than 1,500 students.
Statewide data is aggregated and introduces the entry on each state’s districts, which are organized alphabetically by county name. District-level data includes number of schools at each level, with breakdowns reflecting the number of students in particular subgroups sorted by race, gender, socioeconomic status, and special education services received. The graduation rate, drop out numbers and number of diploma recipients are documented, as are staffing levels for librarians, guidance counselors and classroom teachers within the district. One of the most telling metrics, total expenditures per student per school year, is broken down into instructional and support services. Every district within the state is then ranked on each of the data points to provide a perspective relative to other districts, which makes this volume an invaluable resource for relocators weighing school systems. The two methods of providing the same data — within the system’s descriptive entry, as well as relative to the other systems in the state — provide two ways of looking at the district’s resources and performance. An invaluable user guide defines the specialized vocabulary contained within each metric, including education agency types, school types, even who is counted as classroom teachers and library media specialists.
The inclusion of NAEP test scores for each state is particularly helpful in comparing academic attainment. The top 100 districts in each individual data category are also ranked across states, giving instant access to districts with populations of migrant students or systems with high levels of student poverty as measured by eligibility for free or reduced lunch. School district and city indexes round out the directory, which is softcover and printed on consumable paper. No illustrations relieve the text, but NAEP scores are represented graphically in bar format toward the end of the book. The rich data contained within the Guide provides an excellent springboard for having students create their own graphic representations to better understand the resources each district has and the students it is serving. Recommended for public libraries’ relocation centers.