There’s so much to juggle when moving. Between finding a new place, renting a storage unit, packing, renting a truck, and so much more, you no doubt have your hands full. If you have kids, one of the most important things on your to-do list should be finding a good school after the move.
A good place to start is the National Center for Education Statistics. You can look up the city you’ll be moving to, and then pull up statistics on the local school district and schools. This will show information such as the student/teacher ratio, total number of teachers, diversity by race and ethnicity, and number of students enrolled in each grade.
The Great Schools website can supplement this information. You’ll find information on the neighborhood where the school is located, plus statistics about the teachers and staff, classes the school provides, and more.
We also encourage you to look up the website for the school district and the sites for individual schools, where you can find information about individual teachers, school calendars, and much more.
Let’s cover what to look for:
Good Test Scores
Good test scores are nice, but they’re not everything. In fact, if students are merely taught information for tests, they’re not really learning critical thinking. Facts and figures without intelligent analysis tend to become forgotten information. So, while you should check test scores, they’re just the start.
Appropriate Level Programs
Kids have different learning styles and different needs. If you have gifted kids, does the school have a gifted program? What does it do to engage precocious learners? If your child is behind academically, what does the school do to help them catch up?
Academics and Trade
In addition to standard courses like English and math, what other great programs does the school have? Do they teach a variety of sciences? Do they teach computer science? Can your child learn a foreign language there?
Art teaches creative thinking and allows students to express themselves. Look for schools that have good music, art, and theater programs.
Physical Education and Sports
What sort of exercise do the kids get in physical education? Are students who have a tougher time with PE treated well, or do they get picked on? What sort of sports teams does the school have for kids who are interested? Finding answers to these questions will help you figure out if this aspect of life at a given school will work for your kids.
Take a look at the sort of clubs the school has. Extracurriculars can include sports and the arts. There may also be social clubs, like French Club or Chess Club that meet in a classroom after school for an hour or two a couple days a week.
Student to Teacher Ratio
The fewer students in a class, the more attention each student gets. High student to teacher ratios have been a problem for decades. Look for schools with a lower ratio.
Being around kids of different ethnic backgrounds can help your kids feel more comfortable around a variety of people. As diversity in the U.S. continues to grow, this will be important for them.
If you have a child with special needs, you know that schools must provide your child with an individualized education program (IEP). In fact, the law says that schools must provide appropriate education for every student. If you have a special needs child and the closest school doesn’t have appropriate classes, they will find a school in the district that does.
If they don’t, it’s up to you to make sure they do. Talk to the school administration and contact the school district.
Visit the School
Once you have a good idea what school you want your child to attend, arrange a visit. Talk to the principal and ask any lingering questions. You may want to know how the school handles bullying, if it has a daycare center, if the school has bus service or if you’ll have to drive your child, what sort of technology the school has in the classrooms, and so on.
This should go a long way toward helping you find the right place to live, with the right schools for your kids.