How to Find the Best School Before You Move
There’s so much to manage before moving to a new town. From finding the right home to arranging inspections, setting up utilities, and getting everything packed, it seems like the to-do list is a mile long. There’s one thing that might not be at the top of your priority list, but should be: Finding the right school for your kids. While it’s tough to check out teachers and administrators from afar, choosing the best learning environment can make all the difference for your family. When you’re making this important decision, consider these factors:
While teaching style will always vary from classroom to classroom, some schools take an approach that sets them apart. Among preschools you’ll find schools that are play-based or academic, Montessori or Waldorf. For older students, schools may emphasize hands-on or lecture-based learning, opt for ability grouping, cooperative learning, or mastery learning, and offer a high-tech learning environment or prefer books to tablets. Consider which learning styles have worked for your student in the past and find a school with a matching approach.
Some kids need more than the average school experience. Maybe your child has a learning disability and follows an Individualized Education Program, or IEP, to get the education he needs to thrive. Or perhaps you have a child with special interests in the arts or sciences that you’d like to see fostered.
Magnet schools are great options for kids with unique talents or interests to cultivate. You can find public magnet schools with a focus in science and math, the arts, world languages, and more, and all it takes to qualify is an interest in the school’s theme. For kids with special needs, consider a school’s student-to-teacher ratio, whether special education students are taught separately or alongside their peers, and whether teachers on staff have experience with the accommodations your child needs.
Losing an extracurricular activity when moving schools only makes the transition more difficult for your child. She may feel you’ve unfairly taken away an activity she loves, or struggle to make friends outside the dynamic she’s grown used to. Since extracurriculars influence social development, academic performance, and even college admissions, you don’t want to disregard their importance when it comes to choosing a school. If your preferred school doesn’t have a particular extracurricular, check for club teams in the nearby area.
The right school isn’t just about what goes on inside the walls. You should also consider the neighborhood a school is located in, especially if your child will walk or ride the bus to school. The wrong neighborhood could mean exposure to things your child isn’t ready to see, and studies show that exposure is the first step in early drug and alcohol use, especially among youth coping with the stress of a move and fitting in at a new school. And while you might feel your child is bright enough to resist temptation, the science shows that kids who live in good neighborhoods achieve better outcomes.
Now that you know what to look for, how do you find all the information you need to make the best choice for your student?
School and district websites are a great place to start getting a feel for an educational institution’s ethos and opportunities. You can also find and follow schools’ social media pages to learn about events, extracurriculars, and school news. The U.S. Department of Education publishes reports and statistics on school districts around the country. However, some of the best information comes from other parents. Reach out to parents on local Facebook pages for opinions on schools, check out forums like City-Data.com, and read reviews on sites like GreatSchools.org.
Other parents are also a good resource for discovering a neighborhood’s reputation, but you can weed out undesirable schools early on by checking crime maps, scanning the neighborhood on Google Street View for abandoned buildings, graffiti, and signs of illicit activity, and looking up neighborhood data on a site like NeighborhoodScout.com.
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Article Written by Alex Robbins