Over the past several years, options for K-12 education have increased at a rapid pace. If a particular school is not quite a fit for an individual student, they are no longer stuck; they have choices. Public, charter, magnet, and various independent school options are available. It’s important for parents and students to feel empowered to pick a school that fits their needs and expectations. Though all of the options are helpful, it can also be overwhelming. Here are some questions to ask when evaluating schools with your teen:
What makes your teen become engaged in learning?
It’s important to understand your teen’s learning style, interests, and skills. Students learn in diverse ways and have different interests, which is a good thing! Many students are more engaged when learning by doing. Do they thrive in a smaller classroom setting? Understanding your student's likes and dislikes will shed light on what educational setting might be a good fit.
Encourage your teen to be a part of the process when looking for schools. Use your teen parent connection to support an open communication about the options available. This kind of teamwork often yields the best results when it's time to make a decision about schools.
What is the school's approach to academic rigor?
Learning how a school engages in instruction and measures student success is a central component of choosing a school for your teen. Some schools follow more traditional styles of instruction including lecture style courses, short class periods and a packed schedule of subjects in a semester. Other formats include smaller sizes, focusing on two or three subjects per term, and using hands-on experiential learning as their primary form of instruction. Some school also focus on "mastery" over a grade, where students advance as the master a skill, instead of moving on in content after achieving a non-failing grade.
Do the school's values align with your own?
All schools have a set of values that guide the way they teach students. From how they manage behavior to the way they measure achievement, to the ownership that students have over their learning process, are all indicative of school values. When looking at schools, review the website and look for information about their mission and approach to educating young people. Follow up by asking school administrators or admission staff how they would describe the school's mission and in what ways their programs and procedures reflect their values.
How do they support post high school student success?
Understanding how a school supports your teen in deciding what do after graduation is important. For many students, thinking about “what’s next” can be overwhelming. Knowing what resources a school has to guide your teen through a decision-making process about next steps while providing useful guidance and resources will be hugely helpful for setting up your teen for success in the next stage of life.
Choosing the right school for your teen can be both exciting and overwhelming. While there are many factors to consider, being honest with potential schools about your student's needs will be helpful in the process. Though there are many choices, through asking the right questions and getting your student's input, you will find a match that will make everyone happy.