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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Simple Parenting Tips: How to Choose the Right School

When choosing a school for your child, there are many areas to investigate and options to consider. You will need to look at all the choices and narrow them down to the one school that is a perfect fit for your child. I recommend making two visits to a school, one announced and one unannounced.

First, you will need to decide on whether your child will attend a private, public or charter school. If you are not sure of the difference, you can go to: Charter-Public-Private: What's the Difference?

Next, take a more in depth look at the individual school you are considering. I’m assuming you will only be looking at performing schools, which means the student scores on the state high-stakes tests are good.

Here are some questions to ask when you visit a school:

1.      Curriculum:
·         What type of curriculum is the school implementing?
·         How new is the curriculum version?
·         How broad is the curriculum?
·         Does the curriculum cover the basics: language arts, math, science and social studies?
·         Does the school have an expanded curriculum and teach financial literacy, global studies, classical studies or career/technical education?
·         Does the school offer music, art or fitness?
·         Is there a school garden or any type of environmental studies program?

2.      Safety and Security:
·         What is the discipline policy at the school?
·         Is there a school nurse?
·         What type of safety and security plans are in place?
·         Does the school allow students to have and use cell phones?
·         What is the bullying policy?

3.      Instruction:
·         Does the school individualize education or offer small group instruction?
·         Is the majority of instruction delivered through lecture, hands-on activities, online learning or discussion groups?
·         What is the student to teacher ratio in the classroom?

4.      Visitors and Volunteers:
·         Are there volunteers assisting in the classroom?
·         Do they have appropriate background clearance?

5.      Technology:
·         What type of technology do the students use?
·         How new is the technology?
·         How often do students have the opportunity to use the computers and other technology?
·         Is the technology in a computer lab only or integrated into the classrooms?

6.      Homework:
·         What is the homework policy?
·         How much homework is required nightly?

7.      School Policies and Procedures:
·         Do the students wear uniforms?
·         What is the attendance policy?
·         Does the school provide transportation to and from school?
·         Is there a school cafeteria?
·         If so, who prepares and provides the school lunches?

8.      If you are considering a private or charter school:
·         How long has the school been operating?
·         Who are the Board members?
·         What is the focus or mission of the school?
·         How financially stable is the school?

9.      Teachers and Administrators:
·         What are the credentials of the teachers and administrators?
·         Are all teachers Highly Qualified?
·         Do all teachers hold appropriate certification?

10.  Parents:
·         What is the expectation for parents?
·         Does the school allow parent visitors?

11.  Grades:
·         How often are report cards issued?
·         What is the grading system?
·         What is the policy on retention?
·         How often are parent/teacher conferences scheduled?

12.  Special Education:
·         Does the school provide special education services?
·         Is there a school psychologist or counselor at the school?
·         Are there special education classrooms or resource rooms?

13.  Extended Day:
·         Is there an extended day or after school program?
·         Is there a charge for the program?
·         Is transportation provided for students?
·         Who supervises and instructs the extended day program?
·         What are their credentials?
·         What are the hours of the program?

Use your senses when you visit:
1.      Are the bathrooms, hallways and classrooms clean and organized?
2.      Are the children smiling?
3.      Do the children seem happy?
4.      Do the teachers and staff seem happy? Are they smiling?
5.      What does the school entrance look like? Is it inviting?
6.      Is there any student work posted on the walls?
1.      What is the noise level?
2.      Do you hear a lot of students or teachers raising their voices?
3.      Is there any music being played in the hallways or classrooms?
1.      Do you feel a sense of peace when you enter the school?
2.      Would you want to attend school there?
3.      Did the office staff greet and welcome you?
4.      Did any students or teachers greet you?

I hope this list is helpful in your journey to find the perfect school for your child. If you would like this article in a checklist form, to take with you on your visit, email me at jan@janshoop.com. I would be happy to email you a copy of a formatted checklist for easy use. In the subject line type: Parent Checklist for Schools

(This list is for information only to help you in your decision making when choosing a school for your child. It is not meant as a legal opinion.)

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