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Choosing the Right Elementary School

  Hawthorne Elementary

Answering common questions parents face when deciding where to send their child to school
by Michelle Barber Lyhnakis (MPC ’06)

With public, private, charter, magnet, and language immersion among the growing list of educational or reduced lunch,” Peter says. “It’s really tough to know if the school is a good fit for your family just based on looking at a grade or percentage.”
Some parents think they need to choose an elementary school based on where they want their child to attend high school. Peter is cautious about that approach, saying it’s hard to predict the needs of a child 10 years from now. Instead, Peter recommends that parents stay actively involved in their child’s academic and social development every step of the way. “The best thing parents can do
is talk to their child about school and his or her friends,” Peter says. “Ask teachers about how your child is doing in school, where he or she excels, where he or she could use your help outside of class, and how your child is doing socially.”
While academics are important, the
social component of school shouldn’t be overlooked. “Parents should take the location of the school into consideration,” Peter says. “As a parent, are you willing to drive across town to take your child to his or her friend’s birthday party or to work on a project after school or on the weekend? Things like this become logistical issues that parents should keep in mind.”
There are many factors that influence how successful a child will be at a school, and those factors look different for every child and family. Peter says one of the good things about having multiple educational options is that parents can look at more than one school and make adjustments based on the changing needs of their children. The best way to decide is to take a tour; meet
the administration, teachers, students, and other parents; read school policies and newsletters; and try to picture if your child will be successful there.

Questions Parents Should Consider When Choosing A School

Does the school meet our family’s most basic needs?
Where is the school located, and what time does the school day start and end? Will I be able to get my child to and from school on time? 
Do I need an after-school program? Is there one offered? Are busing options available? Is it a year-round school, or does it have a traditional summer break?

What makes the school unique?
Does the school have a unique learning philosophy or curriculum that suits my child? What is the physical environment like? How are teachers trained and supported?
What opportunities are there for parent involvement?
What types of communication do the school and/or teachers send home to parents? What are the opportunities or expectations for parent volunteerism?

How does the school support children with different learning styles or academic needs? Is it a private school?
What are the tuition and fees? Are there additional fundraising requirements? Are there scholarships available? How much are uniforms? What are the costs for extracurricular activities? Can my family afford this educational option for all my children?
Additional questions parents may wish to ask can be found online at
Options, parents may feel overwhelmed when choosing an elementary school for their children. Jason Mihalopoulos (MBA ’03) and his wife, Staci, began the search for an elementary school for their 4-year-old daughter in January. “She has another full year of preschool,” the couple says. “But we felt we needed to start looking early so we could evaluate all the options.”
Today’s parents face pressure to choose the best school to support their child’s success both academically and socially, but few know exactly what the differences are, what questions they should be asking, and what criteria they should be evaluating. “The most important thing is for parents to pay attention to their child and his or her needs,” says Peter Ingle, 2014–16 interim dean of the School of Education. “Parents should know what type of environment their child will be happy in.”
Some students need a highly structured classroom, while others will thrive in a more informal environment. Though not every school has the same structure or teaching philosophy, schools are held to common curriculum standards. “The common-core curriculum was developed to have a national standard of the skills students should know at each grade level,” Peter says. “Some schools or classrooms teach above the com- mon core, but schools do not teach below it.”
Parents often make assumptions about the quality of a school based on the Department of Education’s School Report Card. Peter says parents should know the scores but not get hung up on them. “The grades are a snapshot of a school based on a variety of factors, including standardized test scores, diversity, and the number of students on free.



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