I’m often asked how parents should choose a school for their children – or how best to know a “good school” from a “bad school.”
The truth is that choosing a school for your child is an incredibly personal process, one that doesn’t lend itself to easy talking points.
When it comes to the selection process and where to begin choosing schools, here are five pointers to help guide your school search process:
Start in January. Don’t wait until summer break to start looking for a school. Seats in great schools fill up early!
Define what’s best for your child. Start by asking yourself: what about a school or education environment matters most to your children and your family? Is it academics, school safety, an educational theme or focus, a specific style of instruction, the school’s values, or a combination of factors? And in what type of environment will your child thrive? Write these answers down and keep them as your guide; start by finishing the sentence, “I want my child to go to a school
Research your options. The reality is: you do have choices, even if they may seem limited. Remember, school choice policies vary by state and locality, so start looking into all of the options available to you, including traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools and private schools.
Make a list and schedule visits. After you’ve researched the different types of options you have, start making a list of schools in your area that you think might work. Schedule family visits to these schools. While you’re visiting, ask lots of questions, and give your child the opportunity to ask questions, too.
Talk to other parents. Chatting with other parents can give you some insight that a school visit can’t. Ask parents whether a school values parent involvement, sets high expectations for students, and treats all children fairly.
It may seem daunting, but choosing a school for your child can be an exciting and liberating experience.
Don’t worry if the process seems difficult or challenging. Education is important. You should spend as much time (or more) looking for a school as you would shopping for a new car!
After all, you can trade in a car after a few years if it doesn’t meet your needs. It’s much harder to replace several years of lost learning.
Remember: you know your child best, and you are truly in the best position – better than anyone else – to decide what type of school your child should attend. I wish you all the best!