School choice: What to look for
Here are some questions to keep in mind as you pare your list
Monday, January 26, 2009
Short stuff: Education
It's never an easy choice. This is a partnership you'll be stuck in for years so it's natural to feel nerve-wracked. School is where abilities are strengthened, where creativity is fostered, where lifelong friendships are formed. Your choice will affect your child's life well beyond graduation. It's no wonder that choosing a school can be one of the most daunting tasks you'll face as a parent.
Keep this questionnaire in mind
as you make your final decision. There are no right or wrong answers. What works for your child may not work for another, hence a careful, personal examination of potential schools is key.
• Visit the school during regular school hours. Do you feel welcome? Do the students look happy to be there?
Distance: How is the commute? Now imagine a blustery, snowy day: is it still feasible?
Transportation: what services are available?
• Is the school reflective of the rich diversity of society?
• Do the children wear uniforms?
• What is the school's discipline code?
Request the school mission and vision statement. All members of the school body should be working toward common goals.
Teachers and administration
• Do the teachers take part in regular professional development programs?
• Is time set aside for teachers to share and collaborate?
n Are teachers and administrators easily accessible by phone and e-mail?
• What percentage of teachers possess M.A. degrees?
• What percentage of teachers are National Board certified?
Social and emotional learning
• How does the school foster relationships of respect and kindness among students?
• Is there an anti-bullying curriculum in place?
• Can kids take part in a student government/council?
• Check out the school library: Are available media materials current? Is the space accessible and comfortable?
• Is the cafeteria clean and inviting?
• Is a tutoring program in place for students facing academic difficulties?
• How many school counselors and social workers are on staff?
Before and after school
• Drop in on before- and afterschool programs. Is the environment nurturing and welcoming? Is there an organized schedule of activities in place? Do the hours work with your schedule?
• Pick up a school calendar. What types of social and sporting events are offered during evenings and weekends?
• What type of after-school clubs are offered?
• Is the curriculum challenging?
• How does the school incorporate the arts?
• How much homework can a child expect per night, for each grade level?
• Is the curriculum balanced? How much time is spent daily/weekly on each content area?
• What high schools do graduating students tend to attend?
• Regarding assessments and grades, what standards are in place? Request a copy of a current progress report and report card.
• Test scores aren't everything, but do yearly statistics demonstrate consistent and continuous gains?
• Drop in on a class. Are the students actively engaged in a learning activity?
• Does the school embrace technology? How is technology incorporated into the curriculum?
• Is foreign language instruction offered as part of the daily curriculum or as an after-school program?
• What type of student work is on display?
• What is the average class size per grade?
• What partnerships does the school have in place with the local community?
• What evidence of parent/student communication exists? Request a newsletter or classroom bulletin in the main office.
• Is the PTA active?
• Talk to the parents of current students and ask, "What do you love about your child's school? What needs improving?"
Healthy kids equal happy kids
• Do the school cafeteria and vending machines offer healthy choices?
• Do the children get adequate outdoor/indoor play time?
• How much time per day/week is allotted for recess and physical activity?
• Are team sports offered?
• Is the school clean and well-kept? Bright and cheery?