3 Ways to Find the Best School for Your Children
One of the most challenging issues for parents is finding the right schools for the kids. Choosing a school and school district plays a major role in choosing where to live. But even if you're not moving, you may have options, and you do not have to make this decision uninformed.
There are numerous resources available to find the best possible educational opportunities for your family.
1. Look into the educational options that are available. In addition to the traditional public school system, many areas are also offering school choice programs. These school districts provide specialty magnet programs that focus study on a particular area from STEM, to the performing arts, to vocational-technical programs. Some start as early as elementary school. At the younger grades the magnet schools often have a lottery system for admission, and the high school level requires an application and auditions for the performing arts.
Check into your school district's requirements, and if you are military ask if there are special waivers for admission in place. The next possibilities are charter schools, which often specialize and have admissions requirements, but are free because they are part of the public school system.
The final options are private and parochial schools in the area. They vary widely in size and cost of tuition.
2. Mom and Dad – Do your homework! Go online and gather information. Start with local and community websites, including the school district and the individual schools. You may also want to read community blogs or social media groups to get a better feel for how the local neighborhood feels about its school system. Just keep in mind that often people only post the negative and rarely discuss the positive, so take any information with "a grain of salt." There are some statistics about each school that you should take into consideration while you are doing your research.
Look at class size, the student-to-teacher ratio, graduation rates, average test scores, and the school's overall "grade." To get even more specific, look at the list of courses that are offered, the clubs, sports and activities that students can participate in, and the role of parents in the school system.
Finally, for high school students, see if there is a list published of the colleges and universities that graduates are attending. This provides an excellent picture of the rigor of the academic program and the preparedness of the students.
Some good online resources for finding this information are: www.greatschools.org, the U.S. News and World Report Best High Schools rankings, and www.privateschoolreview.com.
3. Go on a school visit. Once you have identified schools that would be a good fit for your family, contact the school administration for a tour. Often, especially with private, charter and magnet schools, a "shadow day" where the student spends a day visiting classes is an admissions requirement. As a parent, this is gives you a great opportunity to get a better feel for how the school is run, the type of classes, the other students and a chance to ask in-depth questions regarding curriculum and activities.
Don't be afraid to ask around at work, church and among professionals in the area. This is a choice that you'll want to research thoroughly.