St. Charles the #1 city according to Family Circle

Chicago’s western suburbs have received awards in the past. For example, Wheaton was named an All-American city in 1968 and in the 2000s, Naperville was named a top 5 community several times by Money. Now St. Charles, roughly 35 miles west of Chicago, can join the party:

After hearing St. Charles had been named the No. 1 city in the country to raise a family by Family Circle magazine, Ray Ochromowicz said he just wanted to throw his hands in the air…

St. Charles was the only city in the state that made Family Circle’s list.

The magazine chose St. Charles for its “friendly neighborhoods, innovative schools and beautiful parks” according to a news release. The conditions considered were “affordable housing, good neighbors, green spaces, strong public school systems and giving spirits.”…

To get to No. 1, Family Circle selected 2,500 cities and towns with populations between 15,000 and 150,000. It narrowed the list to 1,000, and each town had to have a median income between $55,000 and $95,000. After being graded on criteria, the 10 winners were chosen to be featured in Family Circle, which publishes 15 times a year and has 20 million readers.

See Family Circle‘s top 10 list here. The description of St. Charles is what you would expect from such awards: it has good schools, nice but affordable homes, and there is “community spirit.” (I wonder if it has any problems…)

Based on what other suburban communities have done with these awards, here is what we can expect: St. Charles will feature this award for years and civic leaders can show “proof” of the greatness of their community. Family Circle may not be a big name magazine but it has a monthly circulation of 3.8 million and it appeals to families, exactly the kind of people a place like St. Charles might hope to attract.

Of course, these lists are affected by their criteria. For this Family Circle list, why limit incomes to between $55,000 and $95,000 or set the lower population limit at 15,000? There are certain value judgments present here that might reflect what might motivate a typical American suburban adult to live in a certain community but they might not exactly fit the bill.

Criteria in the college rating process across publications

There are numerous publications that rate colleges. According to this story and very helpful graphic in The Chronicle of Higher Education, publications tend not to use the same criteria:

That indicates a lack of agreement among them on what defines quality. Much of the emphasis is on “input measures” such as student selectivity, faculty-student ratio, and retention of freshmen. Except for graduation rates, almost no “outcome measures,” such as whether a student comes out prepared to succeed in the work force, are used.

This suggests each publication is measuring something different as their overall scores have different inputs. This is a classic measurement issue: each publication is operationalizing “college quality” in a different way.

The suggestion about using student outcomes as a criteria is a good one. How much different would the rankings look if this were taken into account? And isn’t this what administrators, faculty, and students are really concerned about? While students and families may worry about the outcome of jobs, I’m sure faculty want to know that their students are learning and maturing.