Choosing the right school for your child

First of a two-part story

Carolyn Smallwood
Carolyn Smallwood

As parents, we want what’s best for our kids. There are many factors that play a role in deciding what school is best for them. When I was looking into schools for my children some years ago, I was not only seeking a caring and supportive environment in which they could thrive; I was looking for a champion in teaching.

I wanted what the best had to offer! However, it dawned on me that I had to play a major role in shaping the school experience I desired for my children.

Parents enrolled in Way to Grow have shared many stories on why they chose the schools their children attend. Some of the decisions were made based on when school starts, on the location of the school, or on whether or not their children had friends at that school.

10 questions to ask teachers and principals

“How experienced are your teachers?”

“What is your average classroom size?”

“How diverse is your student body? How diverse is your staff?”

“What percentage of students read at grade level? How many are proficient in math and science?”

“How would you describe the school culture? Do kids feel safe?”

“What are your high school graduation rates?”

“What goals do you have for your students?”

“What goals does the school have for its teachers? How are teachers assessed? Does the school have improvement plans for teachers and students?”

“What after school programs do you offer? What summer programs do you offer?”

“What type of disciplinary policies and/or alternative behavior plans do you have?”

These are all important things to consider. However, parents should also think about the quality of education, the school culture, and the overall environment that will affect their children for the rest of their lives.

As parents, it is our job to first seek information regarding possible school options. You must evaluate the appropriate environment best for your child and family. Take into consideration the educational performance of the school, the culture and the environment, and the commitment of the leaders and teachers within the school.

Would your child do better in a school that has smaller class size so they can get more individualized attention? Is finding a school that offers advance placement classes, more afterschool programming, and additional mandatory activities such as music, art, or physical activities to enhance their experience more important to you?

Finding the right school may also mean your child would feel more comfortable learning from teachers that look more like him or her.

Every family is different, so I would also encourage you to visit several schools to find the one that is the best fit for you and your child. When you visit the school, talk to other parents to find out what they like or don’t like; but also, talk to the teachers and principals.

I am a firm believer that when we prioritize our children, and are as involved as we can be in each child’s education, we are truly preparing them for success in school and life.

About Carolyn Smallwood

Carolyn Smallwood is the Executive Director of Way to Grow. Since joining Way to Grow in 2004, Executive Director Carolyn Smallwood has pledged to be the voice for all Twin Cities children. Always focused on greater issues, Carolyn has served as vice president for Sales and Marketing at Twin Cities Rise! and executive director of the Minnesota Minority Supplier Development Council. Visit http://waytogrow.org for more info on Way to Grow.

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