One of the best publications I've ever read for educating parents on how to choose a school is Bryan and Emily Hassel's, Picky Parents Guide. I know Bryan fairly well and I've been a fan of his research for quite some time.
Bryan and Emily Hassel are Co-Director's of Public Impact. Together they wrote the Picky Parents Guide. The books offers suggested questions to ask about a school, ways to determine which type of school would be the best match for your child's needs, a description of the different types of educational options and ways to assess if your child is doing well. The book is very user-friendly with lots of quick-lists and tips.
This "Top Ten Signs of a Mediocre School" is a great example of Bryan and Emily's work. #8 is:
"Your child's principal says low grade level pass rates are to be expected, given the student population."