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Selecting a School for Your Child

By — U.S. Department of Education
Updated on Feb 29, 2008

How do you pick the best school for your child? Whether you are choosing a public or private school or homeschooling, whether or not you are paying tuition, careful planning is a must. The following sections have questions for you to consider, with workspace for you to write down your thoughts, as you go through the process of choosing a school for your child. Remember, you are looking for a school that will make the educational experience for your child and you as rewarding as possible.

Write Down Five Things That Are Most Important to You

You may wish to write down five things that are most important to you as you consider the choice of a school. As you go through the selection process, you may want to add to and revise your list.

Four Steps for Selecting the School That Is Right for Your Child

Step 1: Consider your child & your family.

Start your search for the best school by thinking about what you want a school to do for your child. Perhaps your child has special language or education needs. Keep these in mind. After all, you know your son or daughter better than anyone else does.

Your Child's Needs

Does your child need a more structured environment?

Does your child need a less structured environment?

Does your child need more challenging work?

Does your child need more individual attention?

Does your child generally need extra help or more time to complete an assignment?

Does your child have any special learning needs?

Does your child need an environment that fosters creativity?

Does your child need an English language acquisition program?

Your Child's Learning Style

Does your child learn best by seeing how things work?

Does your child learn best by reading about how something works?

Does your child learn best by listening?

Does your child like to participate in discussions?

Does your child like to learn through physical activity?

Is your child logical or mathematical?

Is your child musical or artistic?

Does your child like to learn in groups?

Does your child like to work alone?

Location of School

Do you want your child to go to a school within walking distance of your home?

Can your child's talents be nurtured outside your neighborhood?

How far are you willing to have your child bused?

How far are you willing to drive your child to school?

Does your child want to be in a school with his or her friends?

Do you want your child to go to a school near your after-school care? Near where you work? Near a close relative?

Does your child have any special transportation needs that must be considered in choosing a school?

Step 2: Gather Information About Schools

If you were looking to buy a car, vacuum cleaner, or refrigerator, you could talk to friends and family and find information on the Internet, in consumer magazines, or in other published resources. Similarly, when investigating schools, you may also have to make phone calls, collect written material from different schools and look for reports in your local paper to get the information you need. You can check public school report cards (see Parent Tip) and go to parent fairs and school open houses. You can find reliable school information online on sites such as www.greatschools.net and www.schoolresults.org as well as other sites listed in the Resources section of this booklet. The hard work will be worth your while if you find a school that brings out the best in your child.

Along with the schools' curricula and philosophy, you will want to know about school policies and services. Parents may also wish to consider the after-school programs a school offers, for example, sports, clubs, tutoring, or academic enrichment. Some schools have after-school activities funded by the U.S. Department of Education's 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. These centers provide educational activities outside of the regular school hours'before and after school or during summer vacation' that complement what is taught in school. You may also want to ask if the school has supplemental educational services, including free tutoring, that are offered outside of the regular school hours under No Child Left Behind.

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