By Mimi Greenwood Knight
Of all the decisions you’ll make on behalf of your child, what school they’ll attend is probably near the top of the list. If your family is currently searching for the perfect fit, a boots-on-the-ground visit is in order to ascertain aspects such as a school’s climate, teaching dynamic, engagement level of the students, and quality of communication and respect between students, teachers, administrators, and parents.
Begin by reading what you can about potential schools online, and talk to other parents. Then contact each school on your list and schedule a tour. There are a few questions you should probably ask.
Questions to Ask the School
- Do you have an educational philosophy or mission?
- What’s your teacher/student ratio?
- What’s your approach to student discipline and safety?
- What’s your philosophy/approach to homework? How much are students routinely assigned?
- What kind of library resources are available to students?
- How is technology employed to support teaching and learning?
- How do the arts fit into your curriculum? Is there a school choir, band, or orchestra? A drama program? Art classes?
- What extracurricular opportunities (sports, clubs, community service, competitions) are available for students, and can students participate in more than one?
- How do students get to school? Is free busing available?
- Is bullying a problem? If so, how do you handle it?
- Do you offer a program for gifted students?
- How do you support students with academic, social, or emotional difficulties?
- What strategies are used to teach students who aren’t fluent in English?
- What professional development opportunities are available for teachers? In what ways do your teachers collaborate?
- Do you offer physical education classes?
- What are some of the school’s greatest accomplishments? What are some of its biggest challenges?
- Is there an active PTA or PTO?
- Are parents welcome on campus, volunteering in the classroom, or lunching with their students?
- How does the school engage with the community and vice versa?
Questions to Ask Yourself
- What are some highlights of this school’s reading, math, science, and social studies curriculum?
- What criteria are used to determine student placement in classes?
- How do you keep parents informed of school information and activities?
- Is quality childcare available before and after school?
- How much outdoor time do kids get each day?
Questions to Ask at a Middle School
- How do you prepare students for major academic decisions that will define their options in high school and beyond?
- Do you offer tutoring or other support if students need extra help?
- Are foreign language classes available?
- How do you create a sense of community on campus?
Questions to Ask at a High School
- Does your staff set high expectations for all students?
- What’s your STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) focus like?
- What emphasis do you place on college preparation?
- What Advanced Placement (AP) and honors classes do you offer?
- What do your SAT or/and ACT score look like?
- What’s your graduation rate?
- How many of your students attend college? How many graduate college?
- Are counselors available to help students make important decisions about classes?
- Is college counseling and support available?
- Do you offer a variety of career-planning options for students who aren’t necessarily college bound?
- What school-sponsored service/mission opportunities are available to students?
- Do you offer tutoring programs so students can get extra help if they need it?
- How do students get to school? Is there a parking lot, and are buses (public or district-provided) available?
- Do you offer school-to-work programs or specialized academies?