Ask Questions to Help Choose the Right School

Families with children have even more decisions to make when moving to a new destination and choosing the right school. Sometimes it goes far beyond the rating of the school or district! Depending on your child’s interests, special needs or areas in which they excel one school may be a better choice than another. Here’s a great list of questions to consider when interviewing potential schools for your children. Also keep in mind that some schools will not make appointments for a visitation without a permanent home address within the district, so you may have to do some preliminary research to guide you in the right direction.

  • What is your school’s greatest strength? What do you do better than other schools?
  • What are your school’s core values?
  • How would you describe your school’s culture?
  • What is your philosophy of education?
  • What curriculum do you use for my child’s grade level?

Most schools take one of two approaches to curriculum selection. Many schools adopt the newest possible materials and implement the latest technology with little thought as to how these materials or technologies affect learning outcomes. This approach leads to constantly changing curricular emphases and serious gaps in knowledge and skills development. Limiting textbooks and support materials to those available for particular media (e.g. Apple, Google or Microsoft tablets) effectively allows technology companies to establish the school curriculum. Other schools adopt “boxed” curricula for multiple subjects.

  • How do you select educational materials that support your curriculum?
  • What instructional methods are used in the classroom?
  • What outcomes do you intend for your graduates? What knowledge, skills and virtues do you instill in your students, and how do you deliver them?
  • What foreign language courses do you offer, and for what grades are they offered?
  • What is your school’s commitment to technology?
  • What fine arts programs do you offer, and for what grades are they offered?
  • What Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses do you offer?
  • Does your school follow the Common Core? Why or why not?
  • Which achievement test do you use, and why?

The most commonly used standardized tests are state-level End of Year Tests and nationally or med tests, including the Iowa, Stanford Achievement, and California Achievement Tests. These tests are used by most public and many private schools, and assess basic learning, comparing student, class and school performance to others who take the same tests at the same time of year across states or across the nation.

  • How do your class-level and whole-school achievement scores compare to other schools or districts?

Many private schools keep achievement scores artificially high by only accepting students who perform at the highest levels on admissions tests. Such students would perform well on achievement tests regardless of the school they attend.

  • What is your teacher/student ratio? What is your average and maximum class size?

Student to teacher ratios are calculated by dividing the total number of students enrolled at a school by the number of instructional staff, including classroom teachers, teaching assistants, specialists (e.g. art, music, PE, etc..) and administrative staff who either hold teaching credentials or teach one or more classes.

  • How can I get involved as a parent at this school?
  • What measures are in place to ensure my child’s safety at your school?
  • What is the total annual dollar amount I will be responsible to pay (apart from food, clothing and overnight lodging), including all tuition, athletic and activities fees, field trip and other travel charges, books and supplies, compulsory capital building fees, event attendance charges, yearbook and school pictures, and other incidental fees or charges?

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