Top tips for successful K-12 school search
- Start early. Best K-12 schools in America may begin admissions cycle one year before placement.
- Genuinely get to know your learner. This may involve cognitive testing, evaluation by an educational psychologist, or even just a frank talk with a teacher – especially someone who really connects with your student. There are fun traits inventories to help your student understand how he or she learns best. What sort of pedagogy or classroom management style really encourages his or her educational progress? Perhaps a recent cognitive diagnosis makes it obvious that the current school is not doing your student any favors. You need a better school match.
- Do plenty of research. There may be “hidden gems” in your K-12 private school. Or perhaps some new programs opening. There are school networks, for example, growing their brand in new markets. Existing schools may be expanding, perhaps adding a middle school or beginning a preschool.
- Focus on the program, not the name on the door. Remember that what you are truly seeking is a K-12 school where your student will thrive and where your family will feel a strong sense of community with the other school families. Limit reliance on preconceived notions about any school.
- Visit every school that is a serious possibility. You will learn so much that you cannot get from reading websites or reviewing academic results and these intangibles may make all the difference. Your experience can go either way. There may be an extremely well-regarded K-12 private school that you are prepared to love, but you discover, when touring with the principal, that the teachers do not respect her. Or you visit a classroom and are disappointed that the questions the teacher asks are not especially engaging and do not promote critical thinking. You had expected better. Conversely, you may find the administrator a tad disorganized and the welcome tepid, but the classroom teacher for your son’s grade is delightful, experienced and well-versed in the curriculum. You may decide to select this school on the strength of teaching excellence, disregarding other concerns.
- Get your application in on time. Applications reviewed with the first round of submissions are best placed to be awarded seats. While there may be chance vacancies later on, best practice is to make the deadline.
- Have plenty of examples that demonstrate how your family’s values align with the school’s mission. The best K-12 schools will expect your student to mention examples illustrating his or her perseverance or loyalty or passion for a particular subject.
- Finally, trust your judgment as a parent to make the best school choice for your child. After you have gathered all the data, completed the application process, spoken with trusted friends and weighed every school option carefully, the “best” K-12 school choice may still not be obvious. Be confident that your genuine interest in your child and profound knowledge of your child will lead you to the right decision.
What distinguishes a K-12 school?
The K-12 private school format offers certain benefits. There may be a long tradition of schooling lending experience, financial support and roots strongly connected to the community. Children can attend just one school for their entire student career. This offers parents peace of mind and the students enjoy continuity. The different age groups have different roles with the older students looking after the younger ones. This fosters responsibility and camaraderie. However, other K-12 programs may be large in scale with over 1000 students which may seem overwhelming to some families. There may not be the opportunity to develop age-group specialization. For example, there are some schools just for middle-school-aged learners or just for early learners. Consider the pros and cons of a K-12 school format when making your school choice.