Aside from their health, the most important and influential element in your child’s formative years is their education. Of course, it’s not just the academics that affect students, either. Culture, demographics, activities and clubs, environment, and any particular focus the school may have — for example, an immersive language program or a STEM-centered curriculum — are also part and parcel of what makes a particular educational institution a good choice for your family.
Dr. Freda Deskin, whose decades-long career helping children learn, thrive, and succeed makes her one of the nation’s most notable educators, offers some advice. Here are her top five questions to ask as you begin your search for the perfect school.
Will the School Meet Our Practical Needs?
Before going any further, you will want to find out about practical issues such as school start and end times, transportation options, after-school activities or programs, and whether students receive breakfast and lunch.
If your schedule doesn’t accommodate driving a child 20 minutes to school each morning, or if you can’t pick them up afterward and there’s no after-school program, the remainder of your questions will be moot.
What Is the Student to Teacher Ratio?
This can be an excellent barometer of a school’s quality. When there is a high student to teacher ratio, the teachers are stretched thin — which makes it much more difficult for them to connect with each child.
Dr. Freda Deskin says that while teacher’s aides and parent volunteers can help, most of the time a teacher won’t have full-time assistance.
How Do Teachers Handle Poor Behavior?
Discipline can be a sticky issue, but it is essential that you know how behavioral problems will be addressed. Some schools use a system of demerits, detention, and suspension; others use sticker charts or another method of rewarding good behavior. There is a wide range of behavioral management systems. Find out about the school’s official policy, but also ask how much leeway instructors have to implement their own methods.
Even if your child is a perfect angel, remember that sooner or later they will be impacted by others’ behavior — and you’ll want bullying or other problems to be handled appropriately. So if the school’s approach doesn’t jibe with your parenting style, you will likely be better off elsewhere.
Can You Tell Me About Your Standards and Curriculum?
According to Dr. Freda Deskin, a school’s standards relate to the specific skills taught at each grade level, and what the students are expected to know, understand, or do before moving on to the next grade. Its curriculum, of course, is the materials and methods that teachers use to help students meet those goals. Some parents insist on an atmosphere of academic rigor; others prioritize creative pursuits or the freedom for a child to explore their own interests and steer their own education.
To What Extent Can Parents Be Involved?
Does the school have an active PTA or other parent-involved organization? How do teachers communicate with parents? Is it possible for you to volunteer in your child’s classroom or elsewhere in the school? Do the parents have any say in school policies or procedures? Explains Dr. Freda Deskin, these are all good questions that will give you a sense of how receptive administrators and teachers will be to you playing an active role in your child’s education.
What educational considerations are most important for you and your family? Have you had to choose a school for one or more of your children, and if so, how did you go about making that decision? Connect with us on social media to share your thoughts!