Moving is hard… and even more difficult when schools enter into the mix. While we have many excellent private schools, you don’t need a private school to get a good education in the Twin Cities. There are fine neighborhood public schools, but choices that offer students an outstanding public school education go beyond those…. including open enrollment, charter schools, language immersion programs, alternative schools.
The choices can be overwhelming, but the majority of students still attend a school in the school district where they live. Here are some tips for choosing a school district and school…
Do your online research
A simple Google search will deliver many sources of online information, including sites such as GreatSchools and Niche, but be careful of using only data rankings as a measure of whether the district or school may be a good fit for you and your child. The reasons for the rankings may or may not be important to you. In fact, some of the reasons a district is ranked lower could be exactly what you are looking for in a school
Create a list of qualities, values and programs that are important to you
- What curriculum is important to you? special needs programs, gifted programs, college prep, physical ed, languages, music, art, AP classes, STEM/STEAM (science, technology, engineering, math, the arts), etc
- Class size, student/teacher ratio, diversity
- Library resources, technology, homework
- Approach to discipline and safety, counselors, tutoring
- Extra curricular programs such as debate, theater, music, athletics, etc
- Before and after school childcare programs
- Busing policies, parking
- Types of parent involvement
- Food service
- School schedule
Talk to parents whose children attend the school system
Don’t rely only on online reviews… keep in mind that oftentimes it is people with complaints who write reviews and they may not reflect the experience of most families at the school. Look for misleading factors that could rule out what might be a good choice for you and your child. Connect with parents whose children actually attend the school system… you might even be able to strike up an online conversation with a parent whose children attend a particular school.
Visit the schools yourself if possible
There is nothing that can take the place of an onsite visit while school is in session. Be sure to contact the school first as there may be restrictions.
- Observe student behavior and attitude
- Observe teacher & administration attitude
- Do students and teachers appear happy, engaged, challenged, respectful, etc
- Observe interaction on different levels
Your school/district decision is a personalized one, based on your child’s needs and learning style. Don’t get caught in the trap that students can only get a quality education at a top-rated school… the whole picture goes beyond a school rating.