Searching Online for the Perfect School

| 02 Mar 2015 | 05:05

Manhattan startup helps parents and students in high-school selection process

Let's say your middle schooler strives to be a ballerina and lives on the Upper East Side. According to, she should be looking at Talent Unlimited High School on East 67th Street. And your younger son, who's shown an interest in architecture? Noodle will allow you to check off the box for architecture, and explore schools like the Art and Design High School on West 57th Street., launched in January in Chelsea by the founder of the Princeton Review, is a very organized and extensive database search for public, private and charter schools and colleges across the country, in addition to other educational resources like tutors, camps and coaches.

The website's New York high school search just launched, and has been endorsed by the DOE as one of the five organizations selected for the School Choice Design Challenge. The site curates, categorizes and grades (on a scale of 1-5) each of New York's 450 high schools. The grades are determined through school performance and compared with statewide and local norms.

"If you think about education decades ago, your town told you where to go to school. The notion that you could choose is a new concept," said founder John Katzman. "But as a parent, it's hard to find what you're looking for, and as an educator it's hard to promote yourself. If the city is giving people choices but they don't know what the process is, the wealthier, better-educated people will find the best options and everyone else will get crumbs."

6That's where Katzman comes in. He came up with the idea a few years ago, and said that Noodle would have made his own kids' education choices much easier. Users can log in, and create a list of "dream schools" to share with counselors, parents and advisors. The experience, said Katzman, is meant to be social.

Although many of the school profiles in the nationwide search offer a bare-bones look at the school (stopping at diversity, average household income, teacher/student ratio and overall score), the New York high school search is extremely detailed and offers a video of the school, as well as grade (A-D) in areas like college readiness, performance and progress.

Noodle is more like an objective curator tool than a subjective ranking machine, pulling information from sources like the school websites and city data, and soon will be pulling information from Inside Schools, as well as making each school landing page interactive. In a couple of weeks, said Katzman, users will be able to edit school pages, much like a Wiki.

"Our goal will be a really long road, to take a $1.3 trillion section of the economy and catalog and make sense of it," said Katzman. "If it has to do with education, it's on Noodle."