GreatSchools

Author
Carrie Goux, Vice President of Communications, GreatSchools
Organization
Great Schools
Tools Used
Google Maps API

The challenge and the organization

There are few things more important in children’s lives than their education. Yet parents frequently have a difficult time getting vital information about schools, such as how well students perform on standardized tests, what the teacher-child ratio is and how diverse the student and faculty populations are.

GreatSchools, a national education nonprofit helping empower parents to improve educational opportunity for their children, set out to solve that problem when it was founded in 1998. GreatSchools offers information about the quality of schools that it gathers from federal, state, and local governments, and from parents, students, and teachers. At the GreatSchools website, parents can search for schools by geographic location and get vital information about them. Parents can also find thousands of articles, videos, learning tools and worksheets to support their children’s learning.

“Our number one goal is to help parents find the right educational opportunities for their children. The whole point is to match their children’s needs with the best schools possible, in ways that are most useful for American parents.”

– Carrie Goux, vice president of communications, GreatSchools

How they did it

GreatSchools uses Google Maps to let parents search in specific geographic areas for schools, display school locations on maps, and get in-depth information about any school. Using the Google Maps JavaScript API and the Google Maps Geocoding API, school locations are pinned to a map after a parent does a search. Clicking a pin shows a brief summary about the school. Clicking the name of the school displays an in-depth report card, including standardized test scores, equity information such as how diverse the school is, how low-income and minority students perform on tests, and other information such as student-teacher ratios and percentage of teachers who are state certified. There are also ratings and reviews by parents. (Currently, California schools show the most in-depth information. The site is quickly expanding information on schools in the rest of the U.S.)

Using Google Maps, the GreatSchools website also shows school district boundaries. This is especially useful for parents moving to a new area because once they decide which schools they want their children to attend, they can look for houses in that school’s district. Most people search for districts and schools by typing in a specific address or zip code.

GreatSchools relies on other Google tools available through the Google for Nonprofits program as well, such as G Suite, which staff members use as their office suite and to share data and documents with each other and outside groups. GreatSchools also posts videos on YouTube that show parents how they can help support their children’s learning.

Impact

More than 40 million unique visitors go to the GreatSchools website each year to find the best schools for their children.

The site also offers organizers and advocacy groups the tools and information to push for better schools for all children, including lobbying for schools to innovate and focus on underserved communities. For example, Goux says the group Innovate Public Schools in the San Francisco Bay area has been working with a group of parents in California’s Redwood City to improve neighborhood schools in an area with many Latino families. On the GreatSchools web site they used maps to find schools close to the district, and examined how those schools performed compared to schools in their district. It showed that nearby schools performed better than the local schools. Redwood City parents used that information to lobby the school board to approve a new charter school designed to be successful in communities like theirs, Goux says.

“With Google Maps, we’re doing more than just helping parents find and send their kids to the highest-quality schools possible. Parents and advocacy groups can also use it to push for greater innovation and equity in education.”

– Carrie Goux, vice president of communications, GreatSchools