“Which School is Best for My Kid?” 12 Tips for Smart School Selection
Next to picking your kid’s name, choosing your child’s school is high up on the list of stressful parenting choices. Every parent wants the best for their kid, and a child’s schooling has life-long impacts on their intellectual, social, and emotional development. What makes a school great for one kid doesn’t work for the next, and with so many options, parents can feel lost in selecting the best school for their child’s needs.
So what factors really matter in picking the perfect school? Ask these 11 questions when determining which school is best for your kid:
1. Is it test-obsessed?
Children learn best when they have a strong sense of autonomy, meaning they feel ownership over what they’re learning. Having opportunities to explore, take initiative, and problem-solve are important for building autonomy. While all schools aim for students to do well on standardized tests, schools that focus on “teaching to tests” can have fewer outlets for creativity and hands-on learning. Ask the faculty how they balance covering the curriculum while providing student-led activities.
2. Will it meet my kid’s needs?
If your child is gifted or has learning differences such as ADHD, autism, or dyslexia, it’s important to learn what accommodations are available to support their success. Do they need a highly structured environment, more individual attention, or extra time for assignments? Talk to the school’s faculty about your child’s specific needs to ensure they’re experienced and equipped in meeting them.
Need help securing accommodations for your child?
3. Is their curriculum first-class?
The quality of your child’s curriculum can have a tremendous impact on their academic achievement. A great curriculum has a proven track record in empowering students to master core subjects. Ask your school which curriculum they use for each subject and get to googling; a quick internet search can show you a curriculum’s ratings on text quality, knowledge building, usability, and alignment to academic standards.
4. Do their scores measure up?
School ratings never tell the whole story, so try not to make snap judgements based on one overall score. However, digging deeper into a school’s score card can give you some valuable info. Look for these 3 measures:
Are there signs of improvement?
Sometimes schools have a high proportion of disadvantaged students, bringing test scores down regardless of the school’s quality. Look for the student progress rating to get a better idea of how well kids are learning rather than test scores alone.
How does the school perform in various subjects?
While other schools might have a higher overall rating, you may find that a school with a lower overall score has higher ratings in the subject(s) you care most about.
How do kids like yours do?
School ratings break down performance scores by race, sex, special needs, and socioeconomic status. Dig into these details to determine how kids most similar to yours are doing at the school. It’s also helpful to ask other parents and neighbors what their experiences have been to get an inside scoop of the school’s strengths and weaknesses.
5. Does it empower my kid’s passion?
Does your child have strong inclinations toward math, science, music, art, or languages? Ask the school about their approach to your child’s favorite subject. You may also want to investigate if there are any magnet or private schools in your area that focus more heavily on the subject your child is drawn to.
6. Is it public or private?
Whether public or private is best is a long-heated debate without a clear-cut answer. There are several pros and cons to each school type that you should research, but here are a few of the major ones:
7. What resources are available?
When evaluating a potential school, pay attention to the resources the school has to stimulate your child’s learning. Desirable resources include:
An ample library
Up to date technology
Accessibility for disabled students
A School Nurse on duty
A School Psychologist for mental health needs
8. Are there high safety standards?
You’ll feel better about sending your kids to school each day if you’re confident in the school’s safety measures. Ask the school to explain their protocols in the areas of:
Drug, alcohol, and tobacco prevention
Violence, bullying, harassment
Weapons on campus
Police presence and school lockdown procedures
Drills and emergency plans
Notification of parents in event of an emergency
9. Do they support EQ?
In addition to academic standards, keep your standards high in the type of emotional support you want your child to receive. Does the school offer workshops on character building and emotional health? Are there clubs or programs offered to help your child make friends? How do they handle discipline and reinforce good behavior? Consider whether you agree with their approach in supporting healthy emotional growth.
10. Is it a logistical nightmare?
Sometimes your dream school isn’t in your district or your budget, and it’s important to evaluate whether the pros of attending the school outweigh the sacrifices you’ll have to make. Remember that long commutes and hefty tuitions can mean sacrificing family time and other enriching activities. While there’s nothing wrong with going out of your way for a great education, make sure to choose a school that isn’t too disruptive to your family life.
11. What’s my gut telling me?
The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to where your kid should go. You may walk into a school that everyone else raves about, but just get an uneasy vibe that tells you it’s not a fit for your kid. You know your child’s personality, strengths, and challenges better than anyone, and that knowledge will guide your instincts in helping you make the best choice.
12. Should I get a second opinion?
Choosing your child’s school is tough and weighing the pros and cons of each option can feel overwhelming. Asking other parents their opinions can be helpful, but if you’d also like professional support in evaluating your child’s options, a specialist in Educational Psychology can guide you in coming to a confident decision.
Dr. Marta M. Shinn, Ph.D., is an expert in child and educational psychology. If you are concerned about finding a school that meets your child’s needs, Dr. Shinn can provide diagnostic testing, make academic recommendations, and support you in advocating for your child’s needs on campus.
Dr. Elsa Torres, Psy.D., is an expert in diagnostic testing and counseling and is experienced in helping families make important life decisions such as school selection. If you are struggling to decide the best academic course for your children, Dr. Torres can support you in coming to the best decision that fits your family’s priorities.
Dr. Amy E. Weir, Psy.D., is an expert in infant and toddler development. Dr. Weir can help you understand your toddler’s educational needs and place them on a path toward healthy academic development.
Click here to schedule your appointment with Dr. Weir
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How to Cite This Blog Article:
Shinn. M.M. (2019). Which School is Best for My Kid? 11 Tips for Smart School Selection. Psychologically Speaking. [Variations Psychology blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.variationspsychology.com/test-blog/which-school-is-best-for-my-kid-12-tips-for-smart-school-selection