1. Friendly and Capable Staff
Visit the schools and chat with the staff, both in the office and, if you can schedule an appointment, with the administration. Good schools have congenial and capable staff members, adept at running things smoothly and handling any issues effectively. If you’re greeted coldly, or if the principal appears disinterested in your kids or the students, chances are the school isn’t a place you—or others—will want to send your children.
2. New and Old Teachers
A good school district will have good retention, retaining teachers for decades, but the best will have fresh faces too. Young teachers may lack some experience, but they bring innovative ideas and passion into the system, which benefit even the most senior educators. A mix of old and new teachers also reveals that the school is a healthy environment, where teachers like to work, and are open to innovation, attracting the best and brightest education graduates.
3. Student-Centered Values
Every school district should put its students first, but not all schools do. Read the administration’s values, and make sure they prioritize what will be best for the children there. This kind of ethos usually reduces infighting and limits internal conflicts since, at the end of the day, all teachers and staff will be focused on delivering the best education.
4. Engaged Parents
Many studies have revealed that children learn best when their parents and teachers work together. Ask about parent-teacher conferences and if there are any online management systems where teachers can communicate directly with parents. These close connections reveal that a school district understands education happens as much in the home as in the classroom.
5. Test Scores
A great deal of debate surrounds the use of standardized tests, but however you feel about them, they can still reveal the proficiency of a school district. Ask about the percentage of students who passed in the previous years, and compare these figures with city and state averages. If the school went through a period in which scores dropped, how did the administration move to address the issue?
Many school districts struggle with funding, and many clever administrators have found the means to operate effectively on small budgets. That said, the financial resources of a school can open up more opportunities and extracurriculars for your kids. Find out if your local school has sufficient funding, and learn what sort of fundraising programs it implements to increase its budget.
A new building doesn’t always represent a great school, but in this modern age, students need more technical resources than ever before. Look into the computer labs and libraries, specifically how they’re updated, and at the playgrounds or recreational fields. Every school will have unique amenities, so if you have kids pay close attention to the facilities you want for them.
8. After School Programs
Some of the best schools are known for their after school programming: mentor relationships with local non-profits and community organizations, athletic programs, or band and other clubs. Find out what the schools near your prospective home offer their students, since these can also indicate how well a school is setting their students up for success.
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