Deciding on a school for your child is one of the most important decisions you will make as a parent—and it is a difficult one. Many parents struggle to identify the right questions to ask—and to figure out the things to look for during a visit. And educators’ sometimes intimidating technical language does not help the matter.
At LePort, we believe in plain talk and openness: the better you know us, the more you will like what you see. Call us to set up a tour – and be sure to ask the five questions that matter most:
- What is the educational goal you want to achieve for your child – and does it line up with the school’s? I.e., WHY does the school teach? Is it social adjustment? Memorization of knowledge? Success at state-mandated tests of basic skills, or college entrance exams? Acquiring the knowledge and skills needed for mature life? You need to have a destination in mind—to judge how to get there and whom to entrust your child to for his education.
- What is the school’s curriculum – what subjects do they teach, and what knowledge and skills do they want to impart to your child? I.e., WHAT do they teach? Does the school have a clear, written curriculum in each subject? How much time do they spend on reading, writing, mathematics, literature, history, geography, science—i.e., the core knowledge areas that each student has to master? How much time is spent on test preparation—vs. teaching actual meaningful content? Ask to see syllabi for key subject areas—and to review some sample text books, novels and workbooks. This is the road map for your child’s education: be a knowledgeable consumer and don’t blindly entrust your child to an “expert”!
- What is the schools’ basic approach to pedagogy? I.e., HOW do they teach? Do they motivate the students by making meaningful, academically challenging content relevant and interesting—or do they rely primarily on extrinsic motivations (stickers, toys, grades)? How do they tailor their teaching to each child’s unique context of background knowledge, skills and interests? Is their school environment conducive to learning—are their classrooms clean, orderly and beautiful? Make the time to observe a few classes—with different teachers, in different grades, across subject areas. In our analogy, this is the vehicle your child will take to get to his goal – and the right choice is critical to ensure he arrives at his destination safely, happily and on time.
- How does the school select teachers – and how does it help them become the best educators possible? I.e., WHO teaches? Does the school rely on teacher credentialing alone, or do they have more demanding standards? Does the school have systems in place to help teachers succeed—from in-class observations and feedback, to regular training programs and mentors? Speak to a few teachers—ask them about their training, why they chose teaching—and for an example of what they are teaching right now, and how they ap-proached structuring the lesson. In our analogy, you need to make sure that the driver, pilot or captain of the classroom ship has the qualifications he needs for his type of vehicle—and that he is motivated to go all the way.
- What do children actually learn and remember – and how do they develop as young people? I.e., WHAT does the school DELIVER? It is critical to look beyond test scores—which are often narrowly-focused on basic skills distorted by excessive test prep exercises. Look at children’s work binders, review actual tests teachers have given in class, ask for a sample report card, talk to a student or two. What type and level of knowledge and thinking does the school expect? What type of grading and feedback do teachers provide? How is incomplete or incorrect work handled—can it just disappear, or are there systems in place to ensure children master the required content? By understanding what current students are learning and how they develop, you can better judge where your child will be, once he finishes his journey at this school.
We hope you will ask us these questions—and explore our web site to learn where we stand on each of them. They are the compass you need to select the right school for your child.
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