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How to Choose a School for Your Child

By — EduGuide
Updated on Jul 25, 2008

You’ve Talked to other parents. You’ve Evaluated the school, and you’ve Stopped by for a visit. You have all of the information you need to make your decision. So you’re ready to go to that greatest of all decision-making places – your kitchen table – spread out the information you’ve gathered, finish your school Report Cards, compare facts … aaaaaannnnd Take action!

Test

When choosing your child's school, TEST your options: Talk, Evaluate, Stop By, and Take Action. What action you ask?

We think there are three more steps:

  1. Prioritize
  2. Compare Your Options
  3. Pick the Best

For a little help and perspective, read on.

Prioritize

As you look at the schools you’re considering, what’s the MOST IMPORTANT thing to focus on?

Right! Your child’s goals. You may want to write the goals on a piece of paper, make a tent out of the paper and place it right in front of you on the table in the center of everything you're doing. That way, every time you look up, you're focusing on your child’s goals.

Are each of the goals you have for your child’s education equally important?

No, of course not. Remember how you prioritized your child’s educational goals – must have’s, nice-to-have’s and limits? Well, that’s where you want to start when you’re comparing the schools you’ve TESTed.

Is This a Keeper? Compare Your Options

Once you’ve completed the Report Cards for each of the schools on your list, you want to make sure that they meet your “must have” goals. If they do, they’re “keepers” so put them in a “keeper” pile. If they don’t, set them aside.

Next you want to look at all of the schools in your “keeper” pile and determine how many of the “nice-to-have” goals they meet … and so on. That’s what we mean when we say “move on down your list of priorities.”

If having challenging class content is most important, you’ll look at the grade you’ve given the schools for class content or curriculum.

Let’s say all of the schools that are still in the running make the grade for class content. Then you move onto your next priority. If your child is a budding Michael Jordan, Tom Brady or Gabrielle Reese, the school’s athletics programs, standing and opportunities may be the second priority. If your child acts like the next Chris Rock, Mike Myers or Eddie Murphy, then a good theatre program might be second on your list.

And you continue down your list of priorities to see 1) which schools match more of the priorities and 2) which schools match the best combination of priorities for your child.

Pick The Best

At the end of this process, you make a decision. You pick a school – or you decide that you need to work with your child’s existing school to bridge a gap or two.

Sometimes it’s as easy as comparing grades. You’ve given one school a higher grade than all of the others. It rises to the top, and you’re on your way – either to:

  • continue with the school in which your child’s enrolled or
  • apply to a new school.

Sometimes, it’s a tie between two or more schools.

Tie breakers in choosing a school can be family goals – such as distance to travel to the school, whether or not another child in the family is attending the school or funding. Sometimes a school can be out of the running because there are no more available classroom seats.

Sometimes when you get to this step in the process you find that you don’t have all of the information you need to make a decision, so you’ll need to contact the school or schools again to find out what you need to know.

A word of advice: If you’ve decided on a new or different school for your child, don’t delay. School and scholarship application deadlines start as early as November. And while many options are available through the summer, the sooner you get your name in the better your chances of being accepted. If the school can’t guarantee you a place upon submitting your application, apply to a second school as a back up.

Remember, if you’re not in the market for a new school and are TESTing the school your child attends today, this is the point in the process where you identify the gaps in your child’s education. You compare what his/her school offers to the goals you’ve established and whatever doesn’t match up is an educational gap.

The next step for you, then, is to determine how best to bridge this gap.

  • Do you want to sit down with the school's principal and/or your child’s teachers to develop a plan?
  • Do you want to seek outside educational services to fill the gap?
  • Do you want to call the local PTA and ask them what help they can provide you in developing a plan to bridge the gaps so that you can obtain the education your child deserves?
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