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. 
Bright Horizons
About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
Child using a magnifying glass