What to look for when choosing a school for your child

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Here are some things to look for when trying to choose a school for your child:

1. How does the community feel? Is it a place you can see your family? If it’s an elementary school, do you feel like it’s “your community?” In elementary school, many of the parents will become your friends so you need to feel like it’s your “home.” In middle and high school it’s more about if your child feels like it’s his/her community.

2. Can you see evidence of the school’s mission when you visit? Every aspect of a school should come back to their mission and it should be apparent. Does the mission talk about a strong academic program?  Does it mention a commitment to global learning?  Is diversity important?You should be able to see pieces of the mission when you tour the school.  This also relates to what the school values and what your family values.

3. What is the academic program like? Is it rigorous? Will your child be challenged there? Will he/she struggle with academics? Is the school’s focus more about social-emotional learning? Is it traditional or progressive? Do they have a focus toward gifted education? Do they offer an athletic program? Arts? Is there a focus on standardized testing?

4. Is the school accredited? If so, by whom? Accreditation processes and standards vary. Some are more detailed and rigorous than others.  Is the school a member of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS)?

5. Cost and financial aid. What is the tuition and what does it include? Does it include after school care? Does it include class trips? What is the average financial aid award given?  How is an award determined?  Is it need-based or merit-based?

6.  Faculty and Staff.  Can you see the evidence of teachers enjoying teaching?  Are the classes mostly teacher-led or student-led?  Are the students engaged?

Choosing a school for your child is one of the most important decisions you will make as a parent.  Using the above guidelines will help you evaluate a school.