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.