How do you pick the best school for your child? Whether you are choosing a public or private school or homeschooling, whether or not you are paying tuition, careful planning is a must. The following sections have questions for you to consider, with workspace for you to write down your thoughts, as you go through the process of choosing a school for your child. Remember, you are looking for a school that will make the educational experience for your child and you as rewarding as possible.
Write down five things that are most important to you.
You may wish to write down five things that are most important to you as you consider the choice of a school. As you go through the selection process, you may want to add to and revise your list.
Here are four steps for selecting the school that is right for your child:
Step 1: Consider your child & your family.
Start your search for the best school by thinking about what you want a school to do for your child. Perhaps your child has special language or education needs. Keep these in mind. After all, you know your son or daughter better than anyone else does.
- Your child's needs
- Your child's learning style
- Location of school
Step 2: Gather information about schools.
If you were looking to buy a car, vacuum cleaner, or refrigerator, you could talk to friends and family and find information on the Internet, in consumer magazines, or in other published resources. Similarly, when investigating schools, you may also have to make phone calls, collect written material from different schools and look for reports in your local paper to get the information you need. You can check public school report cards (see Parent Tip) and go to parent fairs and school open houses. You can find reliable school information online on sites such as www.greatschools.net and www.schoolresults.org as well as other sites listed in the Resources section of this booklet. The hard work will be worth your while if you find a school that brings out the best in your child.
Along with the schools' curricula and philosophy, you will want to know about school policies and services. Parents may also wish to consider the after-school programs a school offers, for example, sports, clubs, tutoring, or academic enrichment. Some schools have after-school activities funded by the U.S. Department of Education's 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. These centers provide educational activities outside of the regular school hours'before and after school or during summer vacation' that complement what is taught in school. You may also want to ask if the school has supplemental educational services, including free tutoring, that are offered outside of the regular school hours under No Child Left Behind.
- Approach to learning
- Academic performance
- Behavior policy
- Special offerings
- Facilities and services
- Admissions procedures for public schools of choice and private schools
- Additional questions about private schools
- Additional questions about home schools
Step 3: Visit and observe schools.
Contact the schools you are interested in and make an appointment for a visit. If possible, tour the schools during regular school hours and visit a few classes. Avoid visiting schools during the first or last week of a term in order to get a realistic sense of how the school operates.
A good way to have your questions answered is to schedule an appointment with the school principal. If possible, attend an open house, parent-teacher meeting, or other school function that would also provide valuable information about the attitudes of staff, students, and parents.
Listen closely to what teachers say about the school. The teachers will be the adults closest to your child, and you will want to know if they are well prepared, dedicated, and happy in their work.
- Parent and community involvement
Step 4: Apply to the schools you choose.
Once you select the school(s) that you think will be best for your child, you will go through a process of applying to a school (or schools) of your choice and enrolling your child. Consider applying to more than one school, in case your child is not admitted to their first choice.
You will want to begin this process as early as possible in order to ensure you meet all the deadlines.
Admissions processes can vary. Your child may need to be tested or interviewed, and you may need to provide a school transcript, recommendations, or other information. It would be helpful to learn about admissions criteria for the schools. You will want to double check to be sure you have accurate information on when and how to apply.
- Select one or more schools to apply to
- Submit paperwork and applications before the deadlines
- Follow up
Congratulations on all the planning you have done to reach this point. Your child will benefit tremendously from your active concern and involvement with his or her education. By collecting information, talking to other parents, visiting schools, and exercising your right to choose, you can now take the lead in making sure your son or daughter gets the best possible education. However, this is only the beginning. By staying involved in your child's education, encouraging your child to work hard, and providing additional opportunities to learn at home and in the community, you can help your child go further still. Remember it is your right, as well as your responsibility, to seek the very best education for your son or daughter.
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