Choose The Right School For Your Child Part II

B. Blue/Getty Images

After you have narrowed down your options of which schools your child might attend, it is important to get a clear picture of your remaining options for school.  Even if you are limited to only one school, knowing the answers to the following questions will help you understand the unique culture of your local neighborhood school. 

1  What is The Homework Policy?  Different schools and even different teachers within schools all have different approaches to homework.

 Make sure you understand what each school expects from its students, so that you know what expectations to set with your child.  

Schoolwide homework policies can also tell you a lot about a school.  If a school requires very little to no homework, it may be that families are extremely busy and cannot make sure homework is completed.  It could also be that the school offers a slightly longer school day than many other schools, giving children enough time to complete work in school  Still, other schools that emphasize a particular academic area may require slightly more homework than the average so that children can keep up with the more detailed curriculum offered at the school.

2 What is The School Discipline Policy?  Does the school have a progressive system, in which children are warned, then parents are called, and the child is only suspended if the behavior didn't stop after other steps were taken?

If a child is suspended, will they be attending Saturday School, detention, in school suspension, or will they be at home and out of the school completely for persistent or extremely difficult behavior?  While every parent hopes that their child does not face any serious school consequences, understanding discipline policies will help prepare you if you do get a dreaded discipline call.

 It also tells you about the schools approach to behavior.

3 What Extracurricular Activities Are Offered?  Extracurricular Activities are often a child's favorite part of the school day. These activities also offer important time to develop friendships with other children who have similar interests.  Knowing what extracurricular activities are offered will help you make sure that your child  can get involved in groups geared towards their interests.  Another benefit?  If your child is reluctant about changing schools, the fun extra curricular options can get your child's interest peaked about the new school.

4 How does The School Measure Student Progress?  Grades, Standardized Test Scores, and a variety of short assessments are usually the answer to this question.  Still, some schools may take a different approach, using portfolios or large scale projects to check that a child understands the material being taught.  Each approach is one that parents need to be aware of.  If there are frequent small tests, you will want to make sure that your child regularly reviews their material and has excellent attendance.

 If the school emphasizes large projects, being sure to pace out the project work completion instead of doing it all last minute is a homework strategy you may need to reinforce at home.

5  What is the Student/Teacher Ratio?  Low Student to teacher ratios are often viewed by both parents and teachers as being the best for learning.  Each additional child added to a classroom increases the workload on the classroom teacher.  If the ratio at a new school is higher than what you expected, ask if the teachers are given any additional training or other resources to help keep the classes running smoothly.  While low student/teacher ratios are a good sign, they are only one factor out of many that can create a better school.  

There are some questions that can really only be answered by visiting the school.  Getting to visit the school before the day your child actually begins attending will help you establish good relationships with teachers and staff and learn more about how you can be involved in your child's education.

Continue Reading