How to select the best school for your child
Greatschools.com has numerous articles addressing school issues. When I began to outline the areas to consider in selecting a school, I found Greatschools.com had a checklist that covered everything I wanted to address. So I must give credit to them for the checklist below. I made some modifications, but they created the template. I highly recommend Greatschools.com if you have school issues you want more information on, their articles are well thought out and to the point.
The first thing to consider is your family values. What are the most important school criteria to you?
What do you think is most important? Number from 1 to 7, with 1 being the most important
_____ Class size
_____ School size
_____ Academic standards
_____ Teacher education
_____ Teaching philosophy
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What do you expect your child to learn from the school?
The issues to consider in selecting a school are the same for each level of education, but your answers may change depending on the age of your child.
Elementary School : Basic reading, writing, math skills. Social skills and strong friendships
Middle School: Social skills, strong self-esteem. Ability to get into the high school of choice
High School: Ability to get into college of choice
Which types of schools are you interested in?
public private charter magnet homeschooling religious
How far from home are you willing to travel
what transportation needs do you have? walking distance driving distance — 1 mile, 5 miles, 10 miles need bus transportation
Does your child have any needs that require special attention?
learning disabilities bilingual education physical disabilities other
Do you need child care before or after school?
before school after school half day (kindergarten)
Which school facilities are important to you?
modern building safe/large playground wireless and laptops computer lab playing fields and sports facilities
Would your child perform better in a small or a large school?
under 200 students under 800 students under 1000 students any size
The academic program
What type of learning environment is best for your child?
traditional curriculum project-based learning thematic learning
cooperative/collaborative approach to learning hands-on approach to learning
Which level of overall academic performance is important to you?
The school has excellent test score performance. Test scores are improving over time. State-specific indicators are high (i.e., API). Students meet minimum levels of proficiency.
Is a rigorous curriculum important to you?.
emphasis on critical thinking skills AP courses offered (middle and high school) gifted and talented program
How much homework is required?
small amount of homework medium amount of homework significant projects given in all classes
How is technology used in the classroom?
wired classrooms and laptops for every child computer lab is sufficient smart boards in the classroom
Which extracurricular activities are important to you?
arts physical education and sports programs competitive sports teams (middle and high school) music instruction/band or orchestra journalism/debate theater
many young teachers good mix of veteran and new teachers high percentage of credentialed teachers
The school culture
Discipline, diversity, parent involvement and the feel of the school environment — whether it’s competitive or collaborative — are important factors to consider when sizing up the school’s culture.
What are the expectations for parent involvement?
attend parent/teacher conferences active PTA/PTO fundraising volunteer in the classroom
attend school board meetings signed contract for certain number of hours of parent involvement
What is the look and feel of the school’s culture?
Students aggressively compete for the highest grades and honors. All students are rewarded for their unique gifts. Student work and achievements are visible. Students work in a collaborative manner; competition is de-emphasized.
Which level of student diversity are you looking for?
The school population is diverse. Most students are from a similar ethnic and/or income group. Diversity is not a consideration for me.
What is the school’s philosophy or mission?
Do you agree with its focus?
What is the school’s discipline policy?
The school has a strict discipline policy; administrators and teachers are clearly in charge.
Conflict-resolution program is taught and valued. The school has a character-education/anti-bullying program.
How does the school communicate with parents?
The school uses a Web-based program (such as School Loop) to communicate with parents.
Weekly newsletters are sent to parents. Periodic newsletters are sent to parents. Teachers communicate with parents via email and/or phone.
The school visit: What to look for, what to ask
There’s no substitute for seeing the schools on your list in person, where you can watch the teachers in action and ask key questions.
Key questions to ask
• All the issues important to you on the checklist
• What strategies are used to teach students who are not fluent in English? • What professional development opportunities do teachers have? In what ways do teachers collaborate? • What are some of the school’s greatest accomplishments? What are some of the biggest challenges this school faces?
Things to look for
• Do classrooms look cheerful? Is student work displayed, and does it seem appropriate for the grade level?
• Do teachers seem enthusiastic and knowledgeable, asking questions that stimulate students and keep them engaged?
• Does the principal seem confident and interested in interacting with students, teachers and parents?
• How do students behave as they move from class to class or play outside?
• How well are the facilities maintained? Are bathrooms clean and well supplied, and do the grounds look safe and inviting?
Narrowing the search • Here are great websites to find out about the schools in your neighborhood
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