Visiting a school is a critical piece of the school search process. Now you’ve thought through those critical questions before visiting the school, here are a few ideas for what to ask when you’re touring it.
1. How do you support children with different learning styles?
Every student learns differently, and it is crucial that both teachers and school leaders have the ability to cope with all sorts of learning styles. Ask about what professional development opportunities teachers are offered around learning styles or differentiation and what support staff (such as paraprofessionals, tutors, special education resources, and speech therapists) the school employs that could help your child learn. When talking to teachers and observing classrooms, see if you can determine if teachers assess learning only through pencil and paper tests or if they allow students to show learning through art, music, oral presentations, or other creative means!
2. How are teachers and school leaders held accountable for my child’s learning?
How often are teachers observed by their school leaders? What happens if my child is failing a class or does not perform proficiently on a standardized test? What resources or professional development opportunities are available for teachers who are not high performing?
Colorado recently passed Senate Bill 191, which set clear standards for teacher and principal effectiveness and created more rigorous teacher evaluations. Be aware of these changes and what sorts of behaviors and practices highly effective teachers possess.
3. What expectations do you have for my child (homework, attendance, etc.)?
How much homework should I expect every night (this will vary depending on grade level)? How will my child be made aware of the school’s expectations? Are all teachers clear and consistent about these expectations?
4. What is the student to teacher ratio?
Research has shown that there are significant benefits to having small class sizes in grade K-3; we consider a student teacher ratio over 22 :1 to be large. In fourth grade or higher, a class size of about thirty is pushing the limit on what one teacher can effectively handle. In high school, there might slightly bigger class sizes depending on the class. If you see large classes, ask about teacher aides, tutors, and volunteers that are available to help out.
5. How are behavior and discipline problems handled at the classroom level? At the school level?
Are boys and girls treated equitably in the discipline policies? Is there a school-wide set of policies or do individual teachers set their own expectations for each classroom? Do you agree with the consequences for each misbehavior or are they completely off-the-mark? Particularly if your child is in elementary school, the discipline system and any consequences can drastically shape your child’s attitude towards school, so be sure to do your research!
Check in tomorrow for 5 more key questions to ask during a school visit.