Enrolling your kids in school is a significant decision every mom faces at some point. But what makes it that much more complex is knowing your choice can impact your child’s overall development and future success–choosing the right school is critical.
As a mom, it’s important to dive into all the factors to consider for new school enrollment before making this major decision. From assessing the school’s curriculum to building safety and security measures, some essential aspects must be considered. We have everything you need to know right here to choose the best schools for children.
Firstly, What Types of Schools Are There?
Thankfully, today’s educational landscape offers a diverse range of school options. Whether you’re exploring traditional public schools, private schools, charter schools, magnet schools, or even considering homeschooling, many great choices exist.
Traditional Public Schools
Public schools are your traditional government-funded institutions where your child can receive a free education in their zip code. These schools are typically operated by local school districts and follow a standardized curriculum set by state education authorities. They offer a structured educational experience on various subjects to better prepare them for college, trade school, and beyond.
A magnet school operates within the realm of public education. But unlike traditional public schools, magnet schools are designed with a specific educational focus or theme in mind. You can find magnet schools with a focus on arts, sciences, technology, and other areas tailored to different passions. Magnet schools are known for encouraging creativity and hands-on learning, making them a great choice for families seeking a personalized and engaging educational experience for their child. However, keep in mind that admission to magnet schools may be very competitive and limited.
A charter school technically belongs to the public school systems group. But they differ in their ability to customize their curriculum, facilities, and school focus–since they are operated by independent organizations separate from the local school board. While they still have to meet basic state requirements, charter schools may choose to focus their education on college prep, a Montessori curriculum, fine arts, and more. Unlike traditional public schools, you can send your child to a charter school without needing to live in the school’s zip code.
A private school is an educational institution that’s independently funded and operated–utterly different from public schools. These schools are typically run by private organizations, religious institutions, or individuals and charge tuition fees for students to attend. Private schools have much more autonomy in their curriculum, teaching methods, and admissions processes than public schools. This autonomy allows them to offer specialized programs, smaller classes, and an extensive range of extracurricular activities. For example, a boarding school falls in the category of a private education.
Another option is homeschooling. This educational approach lets parents take on the primary responsibility for their child’s education. It involves designing and delivering a customized curriculum tailored to your child’s individual learning style, interests, and pace of learning. Homeschooling offers flexibility, allowing families to adapt to the learning environment and run on their own schedule. It’s important to note that this schooling option requires commitment, planning, and sometimes adherence to state or local homeschooling regulations.
10 Things to Consider When Choosing a School for Your Child
1. Teacher Qualifications
Depending on what type of particular school you choose for your child, teachers often spend as much time with them, if not more, as parents themselves. That’s why looking at a school’s standard qualifications for their teachers is critical when it comes to education for your child.
Most schools require teachers to have a Bachelor’s degree in an education field before they can begin teaching. But, some schools only hire teachers with a Master’s degree–giving them that extra bit of schooling to perfect their skills before mentoring your child.
Another valuable teacher qualification is a certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). This certification signifies that a teacher has met rigorous standards set by their peers regarding their knowledge, skills, and commitment to excellence in teaching. This means your child’s teacher has gone above and beyond basic requirements for education.
Lastly, look at the school’s policy for teacher continuing education. Are the teachers actively participating in professional development workshops, seminars, or courses to stay updated with the latest teaching methodologies? This ongoing learning ensures your child’s teachers have fresh ideas and strategies to enhance their classroom instruction.
2. The Commute
As a busy mom, it’s important to make sure the school you choose for your child doesn’t cause major disruptions to your family’s routine. That might mean choosing a good school located only 10 minutes away compared to another great option an hour away from your home. Here’s another curveball: How much earlier will you have to leave in the morning to get your child to school or leave work to pick them up based on the school’s location?
Also, check in to see whether the school provides transportation options. Many schools offer bus services, eliminating the need for you to personally drop off and pick up your child, and giving you more flexibility with your schedule.
3. Academic Performance Record (for 9th grade+)
Truly find out a school’s quality of education by digging into their stats. Depending on the age of your child and school level, you can review a school’s dropout rate, standardized test scores, graduation rate, and college enrollment rate. This can help you make an informed decision about your child’s needs and education based on actual numbers.
Important stats to know:
- In 2020, the average U.S. high school dropout rate was 5.3%.
- The average SAT score in 2022 for U.S. high school seniors was 1050 out of 1600.
- In the 2019–20 school year, the average graduation rate for U.S. public high school students was 87 percent.
- In 2021, the average immediate college enrollment rate from high school was 62%.
4. Teacher-to-Student Ratio
Research shows that students in smaller classes perform better in all school subjects, participate more in class, and have a decreased crime-dependence outcome compared to kids in larger classes. Essentially, the smaller a teacher-to-student ratio, the more individualized attention they get to excel–this is especially great for kids with special needs who might need more one-on-one time.
16 students for every teacher has been the U.S. average for the past two decades. Some schools are even known to have a 7:1 student-teacher ratio. If class size is an important factor to you, remember that the lower the ratio, the better.
5. Discipline Policies
Conflict is an inevitable part of any community, including educational settings. That’s why knowing how your child’s school handles disputes is important. Are there clear protocols in place? Does the school encourage open dialogue and mediation? These are great questions to ask since effective discipline strategies can contribute significantly to your child’s overall growth and how they handle future conflict. Keep in mind this is especially important for younger grades, like elementary school, where children soak in experiences like a sponge.
6. Security Measures
There is no room for compromise when it comes to the safety of your child. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about a school’s entrances, emergency protocols, and staff emergency situation training.
Here are some safety questions to ask:
- How often does the school practice lockdown drills?
- What is the school visit policy?
- Are there any security guards during school hours?
- Do all school doors automatically lock after opening?
Here’s another tip–a great way to learn about a school’s security protocol is by researching any past incidents or records associated with the school. This will give you insights into how the school has handled previous situations and whether they have taken appropriate measures to prevent future incidents.
7. Extracurricular Opportunities
One mistake parents can make is hyper-focusing on academics. Having various extracurriculars for your child to choose from is critical for building skills such as teamwork, leadership, time management, and problem-solving–essentially expanding their horizons beyond just the classroom. Take the time to look into each and every extracurricular activity a school offers, from sports teams and clubs to art programs and community service initiatives. Ask yourself this: Do any align with my child’s interests?
8. Parental Involvement
If you’re eager to get involved in your child’s community, you want to choose a school that practices open parent-school communication. Schools that allow parent involvement are more keen to listen to suggestions and have a higher chance of implementing feedback when necessary–striving to create a better learning space for your child.
Key indicators of high parental involvement in schools include active volunteer opportunities like field trip support, regular parent-teaching meetings, open parent committees, and school fundraising opportunities. Check-in with the school board and even other moms to see how they include parents.
9. School Meal Nutrition
Healthy meals and snacks for your child are essential. That’s why looking at a school’s nutrition standards should be part of your consideration list. First and foremost, how’s the quality of the food itself? Find out if the school prioritizes fresh ingredients, lean proteins, and a variety of fruits and vegetables. Secondly, does the school support local farms or provide organic options? This is important because a well-balanced quality meal not only fuels your child’s body but also enhances their cognitive function and overall well-being.
Additionally, if your child has any dietary restrictions or allergies, ask how the school handles these situations. Do they take the extra initiative to separate common allergens like nuts from all foods? Then, do they provide kids with alternative options that meet nutritional requirements? Don’t be afraid to ask what’s on your mind; nutrition is critical for development.
Public schools are generally free. But if you’re looking into a private education, cost can be a major factor in selecting the perfect school for kids. Keep in mind that the average cost of tuition for kids levels K-12 in a private school is $23,839 per year. Depending on where you live, this could be lower or higher. In fact, the average cost of private school in Wisconsin is only $3,550 compared to $23,980 in Connecticut. Take a look at all the tuition costs in your area and find out a good fit for your family’s budget.
Enrollment Question Checklist Roundup:
- Teacher qualifications: What kind of degree do they require from teachers? Do they offer their teachers continuing education?
- The Commute: How far away is the school from home and work? Does the school have a bus route?
- Academic Performance Record: What is the school’s graduation rate? Average standardized test scores? Immediate college enrollment rate?
- Teacher-to-Student Ratio: How many students does the school have in each class?
- Discipline Policies: How does the school handle conflict?
- Security Measures: How secure is the school? Do they perform regular lockdown exercises?
- Extracurricular Opportunities: What kind of extracurricular activities does the school offer?
- Parental Involvement: Does the school offer any parent volunteer opportunities? How often do they run parent-teacher conferences?
- School Meal Nutrition: How does the school prioritize healthy eating? Do they offer organic options?
- Cost: If looking into a private school, what’s the annual tuition? What does the cost include?
Making an Informed Decision
One last thing. Don’t underestimate the power of surveying. The great way to choose the best school is to hear what other parents say about it. Ask moms at community events for elementary schools or join local Facebook groups to find answers. And most importantly, after you consider these 10 things, what is your gut feeling?