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Need wise advise on researching schools...

Posted by
Janet
(whatever@ivillage.com) on
Thu, Jul 26, 01 at 15:21

Hi! I have a 4 year old very excited about starting school next year. I'm not as excited. I've actually considered homeschooling her but she wants to attend a "school enviroment" so much that I don't want to squelch (sp) her excitment. As for me, mom, I am so worried that she'll end up in the wrong hands or with a group of terrible children. I know ultimately she has to learn to deal with different personalities whether she wants to or not because it is part of growing up BUT I wish I could lesson any problems for her as I can.
So the question is...what would be my first step in finding a great school? How do I do the research? Who do I go to? I want to be able to find the BEST possible school in our area for her to get started. I want to be able to check out the history of the school, the teacher qualifications they require other than simple regulated credentials, and what other parents think of this school?
Thanks for any advise given, I am very clueless as to how to even begin this kind of research but I desperately want to do it while I have the time and ability.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Need wise advise on researching schools...

Do the public schools in your state do regular, standardized testing? Do you have to live "in district" to attend a certain elementary school? I'd call the office for the school district & ask to see a summary of the test scores for the various elementary schools.

Visit the schools (alone) and talk to the principal, teachers & staff.

Talk to parents with school aged children to get the "community perception" of the elementary schools your child might attend.

That's all I can think of.


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RE: Need wise advise on researching schools...

Look at your State Dept.of Education website. Does your state have school report cards? This will show you test results and whether the school has improved. Check into magnet schools, if your district has them. See if you are encouraged to choose a school or you have to go to the nearest one. See if yor district has a website,sometimes you can cyber visit, but definitely go to the schools, drive around the neighborhood and talk to other parents.


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RE: Need wise advise on researching schools...

I agree with all of the above, and I would also add that if you know any educators, ask them. Many of the teachers in the county where I live are very familiar with the reputations of the different county schools. If you know any teachers from church, the neighborhood, the health club, meet any teachers at parties, etc., ask them, they'll give great advice. Be sure to ask them which schools to stay away from. When we moved here it was universally acknowledged to stay away from a particular cluster, very wise advice!

Do you know any real estate agents? They also know which school districts have a more desirable reputation, but of course their knowledge will probably be more from the angle of which school districts up the property values. In our area, the school district really affects the price of the home.

Our county uses a cluster system, so all kids who go to our elementary school will also go to the same middle school and high school. If your area uses a similar system, then I'd suggest not only researching elementary schools, but also middle and high schools. If the community has high standards, it will show up in the middle and high schools as well.

I'd look at teacher turnover, as well. Teachers like to teach at our school, so the good ones stay a long time.

My opinion is that schools that encourage and have lots of parental involvement are better schools. Our school has a real community feel, and I love that aspect. Not all schools seem to be that way. Test scores and hot reputations aren't everything, I'd trade the top academic rep for a more community-oriented school, myself. Actually, my kids' school has both.

I know you want to lessen any problems of hers you can, but keep in mind that some problems harm children, but some make them stronger and wiser, and better prepared for life. It's so hard to send our babies out to the big, bad world! I wish you the best with your search.


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RE: Need wise advise on researching schools...

PTA meetings are generally open--why not attend a few at the schools you think are the most likely. You can listen at the meeting and see what kinds of concerns the parents are facing and what's being done about them. Then, after the meeting, you will probably be able to chat with a few over a cup of punch and some cupcakes.

Public and private schools offer many opportunities, and truly, there really aren't many ogres in attendance at either.

I don't want to hurt your feelings, but I have to make a point--for your daughter's sake. If your main concern is that she'll end up with terrible children, I think you might want to sit down and consider how unreasonable and much more dangerous that attitude will be to her in the long run. Even if she does run into an occasional bully, she'll recover both mentally and physically quite quickly (and learn a life lesson in the meantime). However, the lesson that the entire world is a horrible, unsafe place is one she may never recover from at all.

My SIL has worked very hard at treating her children just that way--the results? Her oldest got pregnant by a much older man while in high school--she was totally unprepared to deal maturely with 'real-life' issues. The next child, a son, had so much trouble coping with life, that he turned to drugs in middle school. He's now a senior and in a terrible, terrible state. The next daughter seems to be scraping by--and I'm fully convinced that it's because she was the one her parents mostly ignored in favor of the other kids. The baby is going into 3rd grade and is so afraid of EVERYTHING that he's terrified to go to the bathroom alone in his own grandparents home--I really don't know how he manages at school. He's much too old for that kind of behavior, but the whole family plays into it by acting as if he's justified in fearing the worst.

Children need to feel safe, but they also need to learn how to achieve that state for themselves. They need to know that the world is a wonderful place filled with opportunities, not a horrible place that they should be terrified of. They need to learn independence (in small doses) by spending a few hours a day in a preschool, then a half day in kindergarten, then a full day in 1st grade. It reinforces your love, your caring, for them to know you trust them to go to the great adventure called school and do and learn the right things--and the fact that you're there waiting at the end of the day is another wonderful lesson in trust.

Give your daughter one of the greatest gifts she can ever receive--give her the world. Starting with school.


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RE: Need wise advise on researching schools...

you should list the cons and pros of public and private schools. you should also vist the schools and ask your friends if they have kids who go to those schools. but i recommend a public school because your daughter will gain self confidence and trust her peers. catholic and private schools are too sheltered and filtered. plus the tuition costs too much...if you put your daughter in a private school, her college fund will be gone by the time she graduates from 8th grade or earlier!


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RE: Need wise advise on researching schools...

I think you can get scores from schools in certain states on their achievement tests whether they be the California Achievement tests or the SAT achievement test that are given in certain grades at schools (grammar, Middle and High school). These tests are more help than most people realize. That is exactly what my sister did years ago when moving to a different state , and city. It helped her situate her family where the kids could go to a good school.


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RE: Need wise advise on researching schools...

You have good advice here from everybody. I moved to our town the week before my oldest child started kindergarten. We did not know anybody. I signed up to help in the classroom weekly and helped with PTA projects here and there. That way I was able to help the teachers provide the very best day possible, to observe my child, and to meet other children and their moms. My concern of sending my child to "strangers" was resolved by my getting to know everyone myself. I observed the children and encouraged my daughter to make acquaintance with some of the really nice kids in the class. Oftentimes, the nice kids are not the ones in the center stage spotlight. They are just there doing their job and being polite. I was glad to be there so that at home I could point out some potentially nice friends that my daughter may not have noticed. It was a good experience for both of us. I highly recommend it.


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RE: Need wise advise on researching schools...

Sheila wrote: "My concern of sending my child to "strangers" was resolved by my getting to know everyone myself."

My MIL once said of my infant daughter, who at 6 mo. had been in daycare for 3 mo.: "does she know she's being taken care of by strangers?" I just laughed. "They're not strangers; she's know them half her life! She sees them more than she sees you!"

A person is a stranger until you get to know them. And if you've just met them, they're only strangers if you've decided you don't want to know them.

If you can do it, being right there for some part of the day is a great way to get to know the school (of course, that comes after you make the decision).


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