Did you know that moving is considered the most stressful event in your life? According to a Fox News survey, 45% of respondents said that moving tops many events on the stress meter, including divorce. One anxiety-inducing moving stressor involves choosing a new school for your kids. How do you know the school respects your values and opinions? What are the educational opportunities at the school, and will your child be learning the information they need to succeed in life? Here are 8 questions to ask potential local schools.
1. What is Your Student/Teacher Ratio?
The student/teacher ratio measures how many students are assigned to a single teacher for classes. This is important because it determines the teacher’s workload and the amount of time the teacher can spend with students individually. Per a recent study by the Public School Review, the national average for student/teacher ratios is 15:1.
It’s proven that smaller class sizes are an important factor in a better quality of education, as well as helping to lower student stress. These smaller classes also encourage friendships within their peer groups.
Some states, such as California, have a very high student/teacher ratio at 25:1 for high school grades, and elementary school ratios at an astonishing 32:1.
2. How Are Behavioral Issues Handled?
It’s important to understand how discipline problems are handled. Is it a progressive demerit-based system, or a more structured warning/consequence system? Find out how frequently students are disciplined in school and weigh these stats carefully. Low disciplinary numbers may seem good on the surface, but they may mean the school is very lax about discipline.
Find out how specific behaviors are handled, such as bullying and violence.
3. What Options Are in Place for Advanced Students?
It’s important to make sure the school recognizes advanced students who will not succeed if placed into routine classes. What types of AP and GT classes are offered to keep these kids challenged and successful in school?
Conversely, what steps are taken to meet the needs of kids with learning disabilities or special needs? Any school that doesn’t recognize different learning styles and abilities will not be a good choice for your child’s educational success.
4. Extracurricular Activities
Sure, the school has a softball and basketball team, but what other activities are there for kids who don’t participate in sports? Find out if the school has activities that your child will enjoy, such as drama, journalism, art, or shared interests.
Remember that these activities aren’t just fun, they look great on a college application as well. In addition, clubs are a great way for your child to pass an hour while waiting for you to pick them up after school.
If the school is funneling all available funds to sports programs, other extracurricular activities may be canceled. Make sure the school has consistent offerings and funding for kids who enjoy more academic or social clubs and activities.
Are you moving to the school’s Bussing Zone, or will you need to arrange transportation for your child? If you need to arrange your own transportation, how early is the school open in the morning and how late can students stay while waiting for afternoon pickup? You need to be sure that the school is flexible enough to allow early drop-off and late pick-up if transportation will create a problem with parents getting to work or meeting other obligations.
6. Are Teachers Held Accountable?
In a perfect scenario, teachers collaborate and provide consistent teaching strategies throughout the school. Recently, however, it’s become apparent that some teachers consider the classroom as a platform to share personal beliefs of all kinds, from both sides of the political and social spectrum. If the teachers are assigning work that is contrary to your personal beliefs, what recourse does the school offer?
It’s important to ensure that all teachers are unified in their vision and goals for the children in their care. Find out if the teachers have regular staff meetings to discuss:
- Individual student challenges if necessary
- Projects and workloads for students and teachers alike
- Challenges they face in the classroom
- Curriculum collaboration
7. Distinguishing Characteristics of the School
Most schools are known for standing out in some way, whether it’s a respected sports program or an exemplary English, science, tech, or art program. Find out what distinguishes the school from other schools and make sure the focus aligns with your child’s personality, strengths, and interests.
If the school doesn’t excel in an area that interests your child, find out if there are magnet schools that cooperate with your local school. A magnet school is a school that specializes in very specific areas of study, such as drama, music, art, and technology. Older students may also have the option of attending college courses to enhance their learning experience in selected fields of study. These credits will be counted towards both high school and college requirements.
8. School Safety Standards
It’s an unfortunate fact that there have been far too many instances of violence in schools, whether it’s student-on-student violence, random violence, or a targeted attack. It’s important to know what school safeguards are in place to protect students. Find out:
- How will the school communicate with me if there is a safety concern? Make sure you understand how a school will notify and update parents during an incident.
- What physical safety features are in place to protect students? Locks should be on all outer doors as well as on classroom doors. Cameras and metal detectors should be placed at any possible point of entry.
- Are there security personnel on duty during school hours? Security guards or off-duty police provide an extra layer of security to the school.
- How does my child report suspicious behavior? Since early detection of suspicious behavior is paramount in stopping an escalation, where and how will students report concerns?
- How frequently does the school participate in lockdown drills? Knowing how to react and what is expected of students during an incident is an important skill all kids and staff should know. Frequent drills are important to teach these tactics.
Where Can I Learn More About the School?
Each school’s ranking can be found on sites such as Niche. These cover schools in each city and state, breaking the ratings down with information such as testing, student success, and other important factors.
Look for your school online and in the local news to make sure it isn’t receiving a lot of negative publicity.
Talk to your neighbors as well. They will usually be quite truthful about the schools, and even suggest private school options if the district isn’t a respected one.
If you feel that a school isn’t a good match for your family or your students, there are other options available including charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, and homeschooling.