Top 7 Tips for Evaluating a School District Before You Move
When a move involves kids, schools need to be a factor in your moving decision process. In some cases, you won't have a choice as far as school districts go. However, you may learn of school options that will help you determine what area in the district to move to. Keep in mind that just because a district (or school) is top-rated does not mean it's the best option for you. Alternatively, if you know someone who had a bad experience with a district, this does not mean you or your child will; every student and parent has unique needs. Evaluating a district can be a little overwhelming, but these tips should help as you look to narrow down your options.
Is There an Active Parent Teacher Organization?
If you want to play an active role in your child's education, then you'll definitely want to look for a district with an active Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). This formal organization is comprised of teachers, school staff, and parents that all work together to maximize the education for every child. The goals of the PTO generally include encouraging parent volunteerism and community involvement. The group may focus on energy conservation, drug awareness, bicycle safety, or reading and science programs. Some PTO's offer workshops and tutoring for parents, so they're better equipped to help with their child's schoolwork.
Is There An After School Program?
After school programs invite students to participate in a variety of activities after the official school day has ended. In most cases, they are held at the school, but sometimes, activities are held elsewhere, such as a library, park, or community center. Programs often include sports, performing arts, creative arts, academic environment, outdoor education, and financial literacy options. An after school program is a great way for your child to keep busy while you're still at work and meet new friends outside of the classroom.
What Does the School's Report Card Look Like?
Evaluating a district's report card gives you a lot of black-and-white answers you're looking for, but it definitely should not be the only thing you consider in your decision. Take a look at the California Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Education sites to give you a sense of what to look for.
What's the School District's Safety Policy?
What measures has the district gone through to keep children safe? Has staff within the district gone through any type of training recommended by Homeland Security? Is there a specific protocol taken for every type of emergency? Evaluating the district's safety preparation protocol should give you greater peace of mind as your child enters a new school.
What's the School District's Discipline Policy?
Make sure to ask about the school's detention and expulsion policy. Some school districts have
harsher rules than others, so be sure to ask in advance.
What Does the School District's Financial Report Look Like?
It's your right to know where your tax dollars are being funneled into the school system. Budget summaries, annual financial statements, accountability, audit reports, and fund balance reports are all available online. If you can't find reports, contact the district and request copies or online links to find them.
Are the Teachers Welcoming?
The deciding factor will likely come down to visiting schools within the district. Are you greeted in the hallways? How are the classrooms set up? Do you see a lot of student-teacher interaction? Make sure both the teaching and social environment makes you feel comfortable ahead of time.
If you do your research ahead of time, you'll likely have greater peace of mind that your child will be settling into a school that offers the things that matter - high parent and teacher involvement, a safety and discipline policy that you agree with, and a school climate that helps your child transition during the move.
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