Perhaps one of the most memorable movie quotes from the 1990s, this line pretty much sums up the last and probably most obvious characteristic of a good school. Money. Financial resources are, in fact, key precursors to two of the other factors that I have already blogged about that make a school great, teachers and administrators, and there is likely a strong correlation between the other factor I have identified, involved parents. I have noticed that schools that have reputations for involved parents also seem to be able to raise more money for the school. Whether it comes from parents donation or a more wealthy (i.e., suburban) tax base, even if that money doesn’t go directly into teacher/administrator salaries, it certainly gives the school flexibility to spend their own budgets on salaries and use those external funds for other projects like renovating classrooms and playgrounds. Even if teacher administrator salaries are set by a higher authority (i.e., a school district), you would have to think that the teacher who has better equipment and facilities will do a better job in most cases.
It is also interesting to note that one of the top public elementary schools in Philadelphia is Continue reading →
Who is at the helm, and how long have they been there? When I talk to folks about schools, I often hear about teacher quality and parental involvement. However, I have to believe that strong leadership within the school is also critical to a school’s success. A principal/headmaster with a clear vision and the leadership skills to enact that vision must be critical to a successful school, right? Without that, a school would be careening off in all directions with no clear philosophy.
My school tours public and private generally supported this theory. Schools that I have had concerns about have universally had unimpressive leaders at the helm. However, schools that impressed me on paper or on the tour had mixed results. All of the highly regarded (suburban) schools that I visited had impressive principals/headmasters with, in some cases, decades of longevity. On the other hand, the two most highly regarded Philadelphia public schools Continue reading →
Someday you’ll have to have “the talk” with your kids. You know, ‘the birds and the bees’ discussion. Finding a school can lead to the same type of avoidance. My husband and I didn’t have “the talk” about our elementary school choice until we were already more than a little panicked. Before the process snowballs out of control take the time to discuss what you (and your co-parent) want — before you go to all the open houses and read all the brochures and talk to all the neighbors and…
What are you looking for in a school? Take a moment to write a list of what you’re looking for in a school. Ask your partner (if you’re co-parenting) to do the same. If you’re having trouble making a list, just describe what you see in your mind’s eye.
Each of us has preconceived ideas about what our child’s future school will look like. If you’re going through this process with a partner it’s important to see if your ideas match theirs. One friend I have went to a private high school, whereas her husband went to a large public school. This had never, ever been an issue in their marriage. After each school they didn’t seem to see the same strengths and weaknesses and finally realized that she preferred schools similar to what she experienced (small and private) and he preferred schools similar to his experience (large and public). Had they sat down early in the process for “the talk” they could have seen each other’s perspective and skipped a lot of incredulous disagreement.
Make a list of “needs” and “wants”. Once you sit down with general ideas, start to list specifics. People do this when buying a house. Needs: 3 bedrooms and eat-in kitchen. Wants: fireplace, yard, parking spot. Again, find out if these match between you and your partner.