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School search tips for non-relocating families

Top tips for successful school search in your home town

For some reason you are unhappy with your student’s current school. It does not bring out the best in her as a student. Perhaps you realize that you do not feel at home with the other families and are out of step with the prevailing school culture. Maybe the school changed and the program you signed up for is no longer the program on offer. Or maybe your student changed. For whatever reason, your current school is not a good fit. You need to find a school.

Your school search should focus on what is important to you and your child regarding schooling. This does NOT mean thinking about which schools you want your child to go to. Rather, ask yourselves the following questions.

  • Do you think of education as schooling or as something larger than an organized educational program?
  • What kind of learner is your child? What are his strengths and/or weaknesses academically?
  • What kind of school environment/teacher(s) has she thrived and/or struggled with in the past
  • What kinds of logistics govern your school choice?
  • Does your child have any special needs, including giftedness?

Consider all possible options – public/private. Don’t narrow your options by approaching the situation with preconceived notions.

Separate your child from yourself. Learn all you can from your colleagues and friends, but recognize that your child is an individual, and no solution that works for one child will necessarily work for another.

There is not just “one” school that is right for your child. Your school search will reveal many good options. Each choice will have pros & cons.

Do your research to find a school

Use varied source materials, including books, the internet, schools, friends and colleagues as well as specialists who do not have a vested interest. Ask a lot of questions and get as much information as you can. Remember that you are interviewing the schools as much as they are interviewing you. You are looking for a match, and if you have to worry about withholding select information, the school you are considering probably is not a good fit for your child.

Find schools that seem likely matches and plan your visit

There is no substitute for a visit. You may want to eliminate some schools where there may not be spaces or that seem unsuitable. But make sure to visit a range of schools which include those you think you want to see as well as those that seem somewhat less obvious.

  1. Don’t be fooled by scores. Numbers don’t tell the whole story. Statistics can be manipulated to make any case. Test scores often reflect teaching to the test rather than teaching critical thinking skills.
  2. Facilities matter more to parents than they do to children. Think about what your children really need to have a successful educational experience. In most cases, relationships with teachers and the peer group make a much greater difference.
  3. Children transitioning to a new school may have difficulties. What are the support systems? Is the school proactive along these lines? What kind of communication is built in between faculty and parents?

Your school search and the application process

  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – apply to a sufficient number of schools.
  • Make sure you submit all supporting materials. Only complete applications go to review.
  • Be open minded – sometimes a school that you don’t think you want is the one in which your child will thrive.

Making the transition

When you find a school, value the opportunity inherent in change. Change is intrinsically difficult for everyone. But children who experience the process of transition learn adaptation techniques for the future far more easily than do their peers.

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