School Guide

Crucial Questions You Should Ask A School

Before Enrolling Your Child

When looking at a school for our children it seems many of us as parents often focus on what the test scores tell us, what special programs are offered or what the mission statement says. All of these aspects are important when considering a school, but as a parent of four children and educator I have learned over the years this definitely does not tell the whole story of a school. I think a lot about what is important to look for in a school as a parent, maybe too much. While I honestly believe you can never know the entire story and attributes of a school until you have enrolled your student and become involved, I do think there are questions you can add to your list.

 

​​​​​​​When you are looking at a school for your children there are many factors involved. But consider the following areas and questions as you embark on your quest to learn more about a school its community.

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Sense of Belonging

Sense of belonging. What even IS a sense of belonging? Well it is what it sounds like and is really important for all of us to have, parents and students alike. You are not going to find this in standardized test scores or even on a fancy school website. In order to figure this out you will need to take a visit to the school. Talk with the principal and see if you are able to speak with students or other parents as well. When you visit here are a few questions you might want to ask:

 

What does the school do to welcome all students?

 

What activities happen to create a school that kids and parents love?

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Principal Leadership

You might be able to find this information out multiple ways, but how long a principal has been at the school and what the history of principals was before that is important. Think of a school (especially in large districts) as a small organization. The principal is the primary leader and from that stems teacher-leaders and a community that thrives (or not) based on the principal’s leadership. You can tell a lot by the community and culture a principal and the staff has worked to create. Even if the principal is in their first year, you can ask about what the principal did prior or what the plans are for the next two to three years. Questions to consider:


​​​​​​​How long have you been the principal here?

 

​​​​​​​What was a brief history of principals before you?

 

​​​​​​​What are some current examples of how you and the teachers are working together to create the best school possible?

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Community Involvement

Everyone knows about the PTA. I pay my dues and support the PTA every year. However a question I first asked when we joined our school was how is the PTA engaging non-traditional families in school/community engagement. As a white male father and teacher it is easy for me to see how the PTA is going to work for my family and children. What I want to know is how is the PTA working to include and engage and listen to the many other families in our school that identify differently or have different needs and concerns within the school community.


​​​​​​​If we say we are an inclusive community (and most schools do) then what does that look like for all families?

 

​​​​​​​Also, what other types of parent/family involvement take place at this school?

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Curriculum

Some schools may talk about how they follow Common Core State Standards, a specific math model or may even call themselves a STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) or STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Math) school. These can be helpful ways to understand what the school is about in regards to curriculum and projects but I recommend being a little more specific. If you have a chance to visit the school (I highly recommend) or talk with teachers or the principal ask the following questions:


​​​​​​​What are a few examples of grade level (1st grade or 3rd grade or 5th grade) units and projects that students do in math, science and social studies?

 

​​​​​​​How are students asked to show what they are learning in one of these units?

 

​​​​​​​What do you notice that students really love about these units?

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Environment

The last question is a simple one, but one I always get excited to see what and how school staff respond to:


​​​​​​​What do students and parents love about this school and community?

 

You will likely get a lot of different answers, but you will know when people respond how you feel about the school and the important decision of placing your child at that school. Also, don’t be shy about following up with, “Tell me more!”

Questions to Ask:


​​​​​​​What does the school do to welcome all students?


​​​​​​​What activities happen to create a school that kids and parents love?


​​​​​​​How long have you been the principal here? What was a brief history of principals before you?


​​​​​​​What are some current examples of how you and the teachers are working together to create the best school possible?


​​​​​​​If we say we are an inclusive community (and most schools do) then what does that look like for all families?


​​​​​​​Also, what other types of parent/family involvement take place at this school?


​​​​​​​What are a few examples of grade level (1st grade or 3rd grade or 5th grade) units and projects that students do in math, science and social studies?


​​​​​​​How are students asked to show what they are learning in one of these units?


​​​​​​​What do you notice that students really love about these units?


​​​​​​​What do students and parents love about this school and community?

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