Moving and relocating your child to a new home, a new neighborhood and a new school is always going to be difficult, especially if you've been involved in your child's education by helping out in the classroom or signing up for school outings. You know every teacher and feel confident your child is receiving a good education.
Research Schools Before You Move
Start with online research. The Nation's Report Card provides information on state performances in the essential learning areas, such as reading, math and geography. If you're moving to a new state, this is the place to start. Also go to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to obtain facts such as student/teacher ratio, number of students and enrollment by gender and race.
For more details, go to the School Report Express. This is a great tool to find the school that's best for your child. Receive information on average SAT scores, merits received and facility details.
The School Tour
If you can travel to your destination prior to moving, the best way to determine which school is best for your child is to take a school tour. Most schools will accommodate parents. Just call ahead and ask for a staff person to show you the facilities. Try to book a tour when school is in session, so you can observe some classes and speak with students. Ask if you can bring your child with you so they can observe and provide their input as well. This is key to helping your child feel part of the process which in turn will help the transition to a new school.
While on the tour, here are some questions you should ask and observations you should note:
- Question: How many classrooms do you have?
Observation: Were most classrooms being taught or were students engaged in group projects or working on their own? It's a good idea to keep track. It isn't important that a teacher always teaches; likewise, you don't want in-class projects or group work to be the standard teaching method.
- Question: What is the average number of students per class?
Observation: How is the classroom set-up? Is it conducive for teaching?
- Question: What facilities do you have, above and beyond the usual?
Observation: Are the buildings, classrooms, blackboards, gym look clean and well-maintained? While this isn't necessary important for a good education, the way a school is kept speaks volumes on school pride. The school should feel warm and inviting, with student displays and obvious signs of student participation.
- Question: What extra-curricular activities do you offer? And are students and teachers actively involved?
Observation: Depending on the needs of your child, importance of activities can range from crucial to "nice to have". Ask specifically about the activities your child likes to do and note what kind of activities your tour leader emphasizes.
- Question: Can you provide me with a copy of the school's curriculum?
Observation: Is it a well-rounded curriculum? What are the optional classes? Does the school provide more classes in particular areas than in others? Is there an art program? A music program? How much time do the students spend exercising? Is there an online component? If so, how much of the curriculum is taught this way?
- Question: What is the school's approach to reading, writing and math?
Observation: Is there an overall approach to teaching these subjects? How structured is the curriculum or are the teachers allowed to teach what they feel is important? Are students encouraged to participate?
Ask specifically for a list of books being used by your child's current grade. Is it challenging enough or too challenging? Make sure you obtain a list for the core subject areas so you can do some research after the tour.
- Question: What kind of supportive equipment do you have and is it readily available for each class?
Observation: Does the school have televisions, VCRs, computers and other media tools to assist in the classroom? Will your child have access to a computer and if so, how often and is your child monitored?