Parents FIND SCHOOLS & AFTER-CARE
Choosing A School For Your Child
Revised August 2007
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Step 3. Visit & Observe Schools

Contact the schools you are interested in and make an appointment for a visit. If possible, tour the schools during regular school hours and visit a few classes. Avoid visiting schools during the first or last week of a semester to get a realistic sense of how the school operates.

A good way to have your questions answered is to schedule an appointment with the school principal. If possible, attend an open house, parent-teacher meeting, or other school function that would also provide valuable information about the attitudes of staff, students, and parents.

Listen closely to what teachers say about the school. The teachers will be the adults closest to your child, and you will want to know if they are well prepared, dedicated, and happy in their work.

Culture

Is the school secretary helpful and friendly?

Is the school orderly and neat?

What do the bulletin boards look like?

How is student work displayed?

How does the school communicate with students and parents (weekly/monthly newsletter, e-mail, Web site)?

Do the students appear to be courteous, happy, and disciplined?

Is there a welcoming attitude toward all parents?

How are the students with diverse learning needs (e.g., students with disabilities and students with limited English proficiency) treated?

Do the teachers appear to be helpful and friendly?

Note Pad: Read the questions and jot down some notes to help you with your decisions.

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Principal

What is the principal's philosophy about education?

What is the principal's attitude toward discipline?

In what extracurricular activities is the principal most interested?

What is the principal's reputation in the community?

Is the principal usually at the school and available to talk to parents?

Does the principal get to know the students?

How often does the principal observe teachers?

What does the school do to keep good teachers and improve teacher performance?

How does the principal respond to parental concerns/complaints?

What is the principal's attitude toward students with diverse learning needs (e.g., students with disabilities and students with limited English proficiency)?

According to the principal, what are the school's strengths?

According to the principal, what are the school's weaknesses?

According to the principal, where can the school improve?

Note Pad: Read the questions and jot down some notes to help you with your decisions.

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Teachers

How do teachers grade student work?

Do teachers have high expectations for all students to achieve to high academic standards?

How do teachers inform students of their expectations?

Do teachers share the course content and objectives with parents?

When and how frequently are teachers available for parent conferences?

Do teachers assign homework? Is it rigorous? Frequent? Sufficient?

Are the teachers highly qualified to teach in their subject areas (do they know the subjects they are teaching)?

Do teachers have the skills and knowledge to address students with special learning needs?

Are specialized staffs available to address the special learning needs of a child (e.g., speech therapist, psychologist or aides)?

Do the teachers know the individual students in their classes?

Are teachers willing to provide extra help to students?

What is the school's policy regarding teacher response to parent inquiries?

Do teachers have Web sites with class notes and other information for students and parents?

Note Pad: Read the questions and jot down some notes to help you with your decisions.

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Students

What is the attendance rate for students?

What do students say about the principal?

What do students say about the teachers?

Do the students have school spirit?

What do students say about homework?

Do students participate in and enjoy field trips?

Do students feel safe and secure at the school?

What do student publications say?

What else do students say about the school?

Note Pad: Read the questions and jot down some notes to help you with your decisions.

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Parent and Community Involvement

How does the school encourage parental involvement?

What are the ways parents can get involved?

Are parents encouraged to volunteer?

Does the school have an active parent-teacher organization?

Does the school hold meetings and events at times when parents can attend?

How well attended are back-toschool nights by parents?

Are families expected to be involved with homework?

How frequently does the school communicate with parents?

Are community leaders involved with the school?

Does the school partner with local businesses and organizations?

Are parents involved in the development of school policies?

Note Pad: Read the questions and jot down some notes to help you with your decisions.

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Reputation

How is the school regarded in the community?

How is the school viewed by other parents?

Is the school respected by other schools, particularly those that receive its students (when they move to the next level)?

Has the school won any awards?

Do people move to the community to go to the school?

What do the graduates of the school say?

Have graduates from the school made significant contributions to the community and their field of choice?

Note Pad: Read the questions and jot down some notes to help you with your decisions.

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Parent Tip:

10 Things to Look for in a School

High expectations

Busy students

Great teachers

Great principal

Vibrant parent-teacher organization

Children are neither invisible nor scared to be at school

Gut reaction that this is the school for your child

Rigorous curriculum

Families like yours are welcome, and their concerns are acknowledged

You are satisfied with the school's results on standardized tests and school report cards

Source: Minnesota Department of Education, Office of Choice and Innovation


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Last Modified: 10/10/2007