Criteria for Choosing a School

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Class sizes and student/faculty ratio are significant, as is the amount of money the community spends per student for education.
Q
We are considering moving within our area and want to make sure we move to an area with good schools.

I'm not sure what are good criteria for comparing schools. Test scores? Student/teacher ratios? Amount spent per student? What about a good elementary school that feeds into middle and high schools that don't seem as good? My son is only two and a half, so I'm obviously not involved in the local schools. But this is a really important part of our decision making.

A
Your question reveals that you already know some of the criteria for evaluating good schools. Class sizes and student/faculty ratio are significant, as is the amount of money the community spends per student for education. High schools always like to brag about their high SAT scores and how many of their graduates enroll in "prestigious schools"; I am less inclined to use these statistics as the benchmark of a quality school system.

As you have suggested, many communities have portions of their school system that are superb (e.g. K-6) and other segments that are poor (e.g. 7-9). I'd investigate whether the educational philosophies of school systems embraced teaching to different learning styles (auditory, visual, and kinesthetic) and whether they provided rich arts and music programs and individualized academic enrichment opportunities. Safe schools, a well-furnished and maintained physical plant, adequate recreational and sports facilities, and a well-staffed guidance department at all levels are a few more items that should be on your check list. I do not condone tracking systems in education but that is a personal and professional preference and may not be a concern to you.

It might help if you contacted the PTA's and PTO's in these towns and talked to some of their members - personal conversations with these folks who have kids in the school system might prove invaluable.

Good luck with your move and thanks for writing. I know that I have not provided you with every item of importance but I hope my suggestions were helpful.

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

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