BEYOND THE 3 R'S: SELECTING THE RIGHT SCHOOL
Brigette Blue | 4/4/2013, 1:13 p.m.
This will keep you abreast of upcoming important events
Regularly Scheduled Report Card Nights. An open time, usually a 2 hour window, for you to speak to your child's teachers about his or her grades, if you wish. It can also be a time to see and speak to other parents, take the "temperature" of the school, and see the Principal on an informal basis.
Teacher Phone Numbers. Will their phone numbers be made available to you? This is definitely a 21st century feature of public education--I would never have dreamed of being able to call my teacher at home! But when you or your child just can't figure out that last math problem, being able to call the teacher is a godsend. And if you can't reach 'em, be sure to leave a message as a record of your call!
In addition to the above, some schools also require parent signatures on nightly homework, others send home letters and progress reports. Some parents welcome these additional items as it helps them stay abreast of their child's daily progress and responsibilities. Other parents become overwhelmed by the volume and soon begin signing everything out of rote habit. Keep in mind that this defeats the purpose; the point is for you to be aware of everything your child is doing, which isn't happening if you aren't actually reading what you're signing. If you're one of these parents, be sure to discover this before sending your child to the school! Trust me; you'll save yourself a great deal of aggravation.
Any school official that tells you they "don't have the numbers" on how many students have been suspended is lying to you. Run! This usually means the numbers are alarmingly high. In this age of data-driven results, schools track everything; in some schools they track how many times students go to the bathroom in a day! The principal or teacher you're speaking with may not have the numbers memorized, but they should be able to get them for you in a matter of minutes. And if they can't, they are not totally "plugged in." In which case the aforementioned advice is still applicable--run!
Other questions to ask include whether there are school-wide policies and a student code of conduct at all. Many schools leave it up to each classroom teacher, which can result in widely varying behaviors across classrooms as teachers have different levels of classroom management skills. (Needless to say this can result in confusion for the students) Other schools have school-wide reward systems, such as "paychecks" or "points" earned for certain positive, community-building behaviors. Still other schools rely upon demerit-based systems, where students earn demerits for breaking rules. Parents must decide which type of system they are most comfortable with and in which system their child will flourish.
These are just a few aspects to think about when selecting a school for your child. Members of the baby boomer generation marched, picketed, and for our right to obtain a quality education. Parents can honor their sacrifice by valuing and taking education seriously. This means not only selecting a good school for your child, but also supporting the chosen school, and working with your child to ensure that he or she takes it seriously, as well.