Maybe your child is just entering the school years. Maybe your family has just moved. Maybe your child has been in school a few years but doesn’t seem to be having their academic and other needs met by administrators and faculty. Whatever your situation, in this day and age, there are plenty of reasons why parents may need to look into finding a new school for their child. As a parent, it’s important to know where to start in looking for the best.
Know the types of schools available to you
Most parents enroll their children in public schools because they do not require tuition or fees and because they are conveniently located. Public schools include general districts, but also include charter schools (schools that operate independent of the school district but still have to answer to parents and enrolled students) and magnet schools (schools designed around specific teaching styles or topics and which often have limited enrollment space).
Private schools are a terrific option because they often have smaller class sizes, do not need to tackle the difficulties of governmental funding, and typically are organized under a particular philosophy of education. However, private schools are not cheap–in addition to tuition, parents may be required to pay for academic materials such as textbooks, as well as uniforms. Military families may consider Department of Defense schools (public schools for those living on a military base).
Learn about the educational laws in the area you’re interested in
Knowing what laws are in place regarding education in your area is vital to school selection, because it allows you to understand the politics and red tape that might affect your child’s academic success. School administrators are legally obligated to follow current mandates, and that has a large effect on how the district organizes its curriculum, spends funds, deals with students, and approaches classroom size and philosophy. Knowing these effects will let you understand the rationale behind the operation of the schools you are considering.
Learn about the uniqueness of your child
Children often act vastly different from their siblings or peers, and there are a wide variety of learning styles. Many school districts, public and private alike, develop a system of education through which students are expected to progress at a particular rate and with particular tools and methodology. Knowing how your child learns can help you to decide which school’s program is most in line with your child’s needs. It also is important to recognize other special needs that your child may have, such as advanced IQ, dyslexia, etc. Even if a school has excellent credentials and test scores, your child still may struggle if the school has no provisions for your child’s special circumstances.
Consider the location and surroundings
One thing that often is overlooked in looking for a school is the placement and type of the environment. For instance, if the school is fairly far away, will your child be all right riding the bus for a long time? If the school is close enough for your child to walk to and from class, is the neighborhood and route through which your child would pass safe enough for them to walk alone? Other important environmental factors to consider are class size, age and set-up of the building, age and gender distribution of the students, treatment of chemicals, garbage, and cleansers, and cafeteria cleanliness.
Study the numbers
As a parent, you probably want to enroll your child in the school that affords them the greatest opportunity for academic success. That opportunity often can be reflected in the numbers reported by a school. Important figures to consider are standardized test scores, grade point average, truancy, disciplinary actions, and turnover of faculty and administration.
Study the courses
Once you have a good idea of how the schools you are considering compare academically, take a closer look at the actual curriculum. Does the school cover the minimum or do they offer a wide variety of electives and extra-curricular activities? Is the curriculum in line with your overall philosophies? Does it make accommodations for the learning style of your child?
Interview the faculty and administrators
The manner of faculty and administrators in dealing with enrolled students can have a tremendous impact on how well a student functions within the school. Ask if you can sit in on a class that your child might have so you can see how well the teacher knows subject matter and handles themselves around children, and interview administrators to get a sense of accessibility, treatment of staff, and any problems that may be present within the district such as funding.
By looking critically at these several factors, you can place yourself in a good position to make a well-informed decision about your child’s education. One final thing to remember, however, is that no matter what decision you make, it is not necessarily set in stone. As your child learns and adapts, for instance, you may find that the school that was perfect at one age is no longer perfect at another. You are under no obligation to any particular district, nor are you under obligation to any particular educational philosophy. Keeping this in mind can help you feel less pressured as you shop around and can keep your school search the way it needs to be–child-focused.