Parents and students choosing K-12 schools don’t have to rely on word-of-mouth reviews--at least not if Niche has anything to do with it. On November 3, the community review site updated its K-12 database, now providing information on over 120,567 schools, or every K-12 institution that reports to the US federal government.
Niche was founded as College Prowler in 2002, offering student reviews of colleges and universities. “At the time, there wasn’t a good resource about what the experience of attending a school was like,” explains David Rush, Lead Product Manager at Niche. “There was no student perspective.”
Niche’s updated site now offers 1,290,088 reviews of K-12 schools by students and parents, as well as a map search comparing nearby schools and “Niche report cards” based on criteria including academics, educational outcomes and student culture and diversity.
Niche distinguishes itself from its competitors like GreatSchools (which profiles over 200,000 preK-12 schools) through its commitment to student voice, according to Rush. “We’re trying to offer people a view of what the experience at a school is like,” he explains. “We’re about the academics and educational outcomes, but experience is also a big part of that.”
Rush sees other K-12 review sites as more focused on numerical indicators like Academic Performance Index over personal reviews. “Quality can’t be measured by a single test that students are taking every other year of their education,” he says. “We look at other data like outcomes, which is much more reliable than a state test score in understanding what the experience is like before you choose a school.”
Rush sees student feedback as essential to making informed decisions. “Student reviews are always beneficial,” he says. “They identify failure points in a school, and show an accurate picture of what a school is really like.”
Through its survey system, Niche monitors reviews, automatically flagging for inappropriate language or spam and also undergoing a manual process for review length and quality. To remain current, reviews are marked as “retired” after four years, and all are dated. Any user, including a school administrator or teacher, can flag a review as inaccurate or inappropriate.
Niche previously offered a subscription service, but to make its reviews available to all students and parents, the company shifted its revenue model to banner advertising.
Niche now is figuring out how to apply college review experience to the K-12 market. “We won’t gather information from anyone under 13, so for that age range, we’ll rely solely on reviews from parents,” says Rush. His team is building a bridge between College Prowler and Niche K-12 that he hopes will make both resources more useful for students and parents. “We’re really trying to connect the dots between all these different decision spaces in your life, so you can understand how choices and options affect each other,” he explains.