Take the Guesswork Out of Choosing the Right School
There are big decisions and then there are really big decisions when buying a home. For parents, the biggest might be picking the right school for their child.
For parents of older children, knowing their child’s interests can go a long way in selecting the right school. Is your child obsessed with swimming? Not all school districts have a natatorium, so that could help narrow your search. Is your child meant for the stage? You’ll obviously want to look for a school with a strong theater arts program.
For those with younger children — or who are hoping to have children — you don’t have the luxury of knowing if you have a natural athlete or a future scientist. You’re going to have to dig deeper.
School district website
A school district’s website is a natural place to begin. There, you’ll not only find useful, how-to information, but you can learn about the district’s vision, bond programs, fiscal responsibility and points of pride. Make sure to read the news portion of the website, as well, to see recent innovations and accolades. Have a specific question about the district? You should be able to find email addresses for district staff.
From the school district website, you should be able to access each school’s individual website. Like the district site, you can find the school’s vision and staff email addresses if you have specific questions. Check out what classes are offered – if there isn’t a list of classes, look through the teacher directory, which usually lists the class for each teacher. Clubs and organizations might also be listed, as well as links to parent organization web pages, another good source of information.
Most school districts and schools have active social media pages, with two of the most popular being Facebook and Twitter. See what they post and read the comments — this will help you measure the school’s or district’s “personality.”
More Online Research
The Texas Education Agency website is a treasure trove of information about both districts and schools. But don’t become too attached to an overall score. Dig deeper to see how grades performed on various state-mandated tests. Looks at the ratio of teachers to students and see how much experience teachers have and how long they’ve been at their campus. Schools with high retention rates probably have stronger programs.
Great Schools.org is another website chockful of ratings and insights regarding the quality of a school and district. Don’t forget to do an online search of news stories — big accomplishments usually receive local coverage.
Visit the School
Ask to tour the school you’re considering. Talk to the principal, department head or staff person showing you around to discover their approach to learning. Ask about the school’s technology and students’ access to it. Ask to see the playground — a playground full of equipment typically indicates an active parent-teacher organization.
If you have friends in the area with school-aged children, they will probably have information regarding a school’s reputation. Make sure to ask why a certain school is known for this or that. Don’t know anyone? If you’re working with a real estate agent, you’re in luck — they are typically well-schooled in the strengths and weaknesses of schools in the area. Let your agent know what’s a priority for you.