About the Apples2Apples Comparison Tool

The key to understanding and improving schools and school districts is being able to make fair and helpful comparisons among them. It is not especially useful to tell schools with a high proportion of English Language Learners (ELL) to emulate the best practices of schools that don't have any ELL students. It also does not help much to tell a district with fewer than 1,000 students to adopt staffing practices that work well in a district with 75,000 students.

For schools to improve, they need to learn from the best practices of similarly situated schools, not be told to adopt some one-size-fits-all notion of the academic ideal.

The Apples2Apples comparison tool was specifically designed to help school districts, parents, and taxpayers sift through the diverse educational landscape in Texas and identify schools and districts worthy of emulating. The tool identifies schools and districts where:

  • Students perform better than would be expected given their demographics and previous performance;
  • Educational expenditures are lower than would be expected given their cost environment.

Schools and districts that stand out in both dimensions—high performing and low spending—are highlighted as best practitioners. These Smart Schools can be found in just about every demographic strata and geographic corner of the state. They have ideas and innovations that can really make a difference in Texas.

The Apples2Apples comparison tool also allows local schools and districts to benchmark their performance relative to other schools and districts in the state. For each school and district, we have identified the most similar comparison group—which we call their fiscal peers—but anyone using the tool can customize the comparisons in ways that seem reasonable to them. Want to see how your high school stacks up to other high schools in the county (or to other high schools of similar size or with similar demographics statewide), go right ahead. Want to pick the comparison group from a list of Texas schools or districts, feel free.