Ten Things to Look for In a School
1. High expectations. Good schools have high expectations for students. Strong schools identify students’ strengths, and help them reach their potential. Schools with high expectations have a “can-do” attitude. If you are looking for a secondary school, ask about the percentage of students, by ethnicity, who either do not complete high school on time or drop out of school altogether. Ask about how diverse the students are who take the highest-level classes.
2. Busy students. Students need to be using every minute to learn. Take a look at what happens before and after school too – both for extracurricular activities that may interest your child and for academic enrichment.
3. Great teachers. Visit classrooms and talk to parents. Schools need a mix of older, highly experienced teachers and new hires.
4. A great principal. Leadership at the school matters. If your schedule permits, have a short meeting with the principal before choosing the school. Schools where principals don’t make time to meet may not value family involvement as highly as others.
5. Vibrant parent-teacher organizations. Involved parents help schools in many ways, including helping to keep them accountable for achieving strong results. If the school doesn’t have a group, or hardly anybody participates, it lacks an important strength that other schools have.
6. Children or teens are neither invisible nor scared to be at school. Some schools make sure that every student has a warm, caring relationship with at least one staff member. If your child is scared to go to school because of a lack of discipline in the classroom, bullying or an intimidating environment, look for another school. Students enjoy going to schools that care for and value them.
7. A gut reaction that this is the school for your child. Look at a number of schools, but when you find one that you intuitively know is a match for your child’s needs, go for it. Remember, nobody knows your child the way you do.
8. Rigorous curriculum. Look for schools that let all students challenge themselves. Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs are great. Services for gifted students of all ages are also a plus.
9. Families like yours are welcome, and their concerns are acknowledged. Use your own experience as a guide. Also, ask other families whose children attend that school.
10. You are satisfied with the school’s achievement data. See Data for Parents and Educators located in MDE’s Data Center.
For more information, contact Cindy Jackson, Minnesota Department of Education, Office of Equity and Innovation, 651-582-8572, firstname.lastname@example.org.