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If You Want to Choose a School for Your Child
What to Look for in a School
If your child attends a Title I school that has not met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for the third year, you may want to transfer your child to another school. You may start by looking at the options offered by your school district. If your state says your child's public school is in need of improvement, the school district must give you the choice of having your child stay in that school or sending him or her to another public school. Also, if your state says your neighborhood school is "persistently dangerous," or if your child has been the victim of a violent crime at school, you can transfer your child to another school in the district. In addition, many school districts offer parents a range of choices based on academic need or interest—to attend a magnet school or charter school, for example, or to go to a school with an honors or advanced placement emphasis. And some places offer scholarships for students to attend private schools.
In choosing a public school for your child, ask the school district office what the public school choice policies and procedures are and how to enroll your child. Here are some steps to help you find the right fit for your child's needs:
Consider your child and your family. Think about what you want a school to do for your child. Your child may have special talents, interests or education needs. Consider your child's learning style: does he learn best by listening or by reading; or, does she like to work in groups or work alone? You may want to look at the location of the school: is it better to be close to your house or close to your work; or, do you want the school to be close to an after-school or tutoring program?
Gather information about the different schools. You may want to talk to friends or neighbors to find out about the schools their children attend. Also, look for local newspaper articles about how the public schools in the area are performing. You may want to call schools and ask about their school report cards, and you may want to go to parent fairs and school open houses. Take a look at the school's curriculum, approach to learning, behavior policy and safety record. Look too, at any special activities or programs the school might offer, such as sports or arts programs, and the services the school provides, such as access to computers, a school nurse on-site or after-school programs.
Visit and observe schools. If possible, tour a school during regular school hours and visit a few classes. Schedule an appointment with the school principal to discuss any questions you have. Try to understand the "culture" of the school—how does it feel being there? Do the students look happy? Are the teachers friendly and involved? Is the school building cheerful and clean? Does the school display student artwork, writings or awards?
Talk with the principal. Find out his or her approach to education and whether parent involvement is welcomed at the school. If so, what ways may a parent be active? Does the school have a parent-teacher association? If the school is a Title I school, does it have an active parent advisory council (PAC)? (If it is a Title I school, money is set aside to assist parents in helping their child.) What programs does the school have for Title I parents?
—Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings
One Parent's Story
Kisha was a very active child. She had been in preschool, and her mother knew she would need a stimulating and expressive environment when she started kindergarten. Kisha's mother looked at the different types of schools in her district. She worked with the school system to enroll Kisha in an arts magnet elementary school, which met Kisha's need to be creative while learning reading, math and science.*
*This anecdote is based on an interview with a parent conducted during the preparation of the Empowering Parents School Box. The story is for illustration only. The child's name has been changed to protect her privacy.
What are the different types of schools?
Public schools are funded by tax dollars.
Neighborhood public schools are traditional public schools where your child is assigned by the school district, based on where you live.
Charter schools are public schools of choice, which generally operate free of many local and state regulations but are accountable to organizations that monitor their academic results and financial management.
Magnet schools are public schools designed to attract students from diverse social, economic, ethnic and racial backgrounds by focusing on a specific area such as science, technology or the arts.
Private schools are elementary or secondary schools run and supported by private individuals, groups or corporations rather than by a government or public agency. Some are affiliated with religious organizations. Families pay a fee or tuition to attend private schools. Some private schools have scholarships for low-income families.
Your NOTES for Choosing a School—————————————————————————————————