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Evaluating Schools: Questions and Tips for Parents, Schools, and the Community (page 2)

— U.S. Department of Education
Updated on Feb 20, 2008

Teacher Training and Quality

  • Does your child's teacher hold a degree in the subject he or she is teaching? How many of your school's teachers meet the Highly Qualified Teacher standards under No Child Left Behind? How many teachers hold only emergency credentials? Does the school inform parents of their teachers' quality and credentials?

Under No Child Left Behind, teachers in core academic areas must be highly qualified in those subjects by the end of the 2005-06 school year. A highly qualified teacher is one who has a bachelor's degree, full state certification and demonstrated competency, as defined by the state, in each core academic subject he or she teaches.

  • Does the district have a recruitment plan, including incentives, to ensure that every classroom has a highly qualified teacher?
  • Does the district have a policy to encourage qualified professionals from other career areas to become classroom teachers?
  • If a teacher is doing his or her job poorly, what procedures are in place for retraining, reassigning or replacing him or her? On average, how long does the process take?
  • How much of the school's budget is spent in the classroom, including for teachers' salaries, books and supplies? How much is spent on administration and overhead

Student Discipline

  • Is there an explicit student disciplinary policy? How does the school inform parents when their child has misbehaved and been placed in detention, suspended or expelled?
  • Is a list of disciplinary rules available to parents, teachers and students alike?
  • Does the school track attendance? What are the penalties for unexcused absences?
  • How many incidents of violence, vandalism or substance abuse occurred on school property last year? How does that figure compare to the districtwide and statewide averages?
  • Has your school been identified as a "persistently dangerous school"?

A child attending a "persistently dangerous school," as defined by the individual state, is eligible for the public school choice options under No Child Left Behind, as is any student who has been the victim of a violent crime on the grounds of his or her school.

Measuring the Progress of Students with Disabilities

Measuring children's progress with annual state assessments provides teachers and parents with objective information about each child's strengths and weaknesses. With this knowledge, teachers can develop lessons to make sure each student meets state standards for his or her grade. Therefore, all children must participate in state assessments.

States can provide students with disabilities with "accommodations," such as extra time, a separate room or the use of assistive technology, to ensure that the assessment measures the student's knowledge and skills, rather than his or her disability. Also, a No Child Left Behind regulation allows schools and school districts the flexibility to measure the progress of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities with an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards.

  • If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), how will he or she participate in the state assessment?
  • Who will decide whether your child takes the regular state achievement test or an alternate achievement test?
  • Does the state assessment allow accommodations, such as increased time, a separate room or the use of assistive technology, that will allow your child to show what he or she knows and can do?
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