Choosing a School: Moving on after Preschool

Child using a magnifying glass

Every family has different priorities when choosing an elementary school. You may choose the neighborhood school where you can support your community. You may want a strong science curriculum for your budding inventor. Or, maybe the most important feature to you is a school with an enthusiastic faculty and strong leadership. The following steps will help guide you closer to choosing the right school for your child. 

Step 1: Spell out your interests and your child's particular needs  

  • What are your child's educational needs? Do you prefer a curriculum that is structured, child initiated, or a combination of the two?  
  • Are the ideology and values of the schools compatible with yours?  
  • What size school are you looking for? Some children may do better in a smaller school while others may benefit from a larger school with more options. How important is class size to you? 

Step 2: Determine your family logistics  

  • What are you able to afford? Keep in mind that even public education entails costs beyond taxes, such as lunches, after-school programs, field trips, and supplemental costs for band or sports.  
  • What type of school transportation do you need?  
  • What child care support do you need? Does the school offer extended day programs or flexible early entry?  

Step 3: Develop a school search strategy  

  • Research the schools in your area. Call or email the schools for catalogs, videos, and applications.  
  • Locate and talk to parents whose children attend the different schools.  
  • Select approximately three to five schools to explore further.  
  • Visit your top choices. 

Step 4: Visit and assess schools

  • When you visit schools, be sure to ask questions, observe the environment, and talk to teachers.  
  • Does the school have a particular educational philosophy or mission?  
  • How does the school encourage and monitor students' progress toward meeting grade-level standards?  
  • What are some highlights of the reading, math, science, and social studies curriculum?  
  • What criteria are used to determine student placement in classes?  
  • Does the school individualize curriculum?  
  • How does the school support students who have academic, social, or emotional challenges?  
  • How does the school support special gifts or particular interests?  
  • How is technology used to support teaching and learning at this school?  
  • What extracurricular opportunities are available for students?  
  • What is the school's approach to student discipline and safety?  
  • What strategies are used to teach students who are not fluent in English?  
  • What professional development opportunities do teachers have?  
  • How does the school approach parent involvement?  
  • Is there an active Parent Teacher Association?  
  • Ask all schools about the qualifications and turnover of leadership and faculty and how they evaluate themselves and are evaluated by others.  
  • What is the school's history, organizational structure, and financial stability?  

Also, look for the following when you visit schools:  

  • Do the classrooms look cheerful? Is student work displayed, and does it seem appropriate for the grade level?  
  • Do teachers seem enthusiastic and knowledgeable, asking questions that stimulate students and keep them engaged?  
  • Does the principal seem confident and interested in interacting with students, teachers, and parents?  
  • How well are the facilities maintained? Are bathrooms clean and well supplied, and do the grounds look safe and inviting?

Remember, you are looking for a school for your child that will make learning joyful and inspire curiosity in your learner. 
Child using a magnifying glass
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