Identifying Good School Districts

How does a parent go about finding out which school district will meet the needs of his or her child. Here a ways to find out if the school you are considering makes the grade.

If you are a parent who is home hunting, like most other parents, you are probably giving a great deal of thought about the stability of a school district. Just because a town seems like the right fit, it doesn't necessarily indicate that the school will be just as good a fit for your child. But, how can you tell and where should parents look to evaluate and attain accurate information about a school's rank? Here are some ways to find out if the town's school district you are interested in makes the grade.

Begin by using your library as a source. Your reference librarian can point you in the right direction on where to look using such periodical indexes like the Reader's Guide or computer based searches like Infotrac, ProQuest, or FirstSearch. Using these sources, you can find articles that discuss what to look for in school districts. Some may be more definitive and actually rank specific schools, while others will provide a general overview of what to ask when visiting a school or what to look for in a school's report. Two recommended educational guidebooks useful for evaluating schools are Grade Your Child's School by Charles Harrison and Choosing the Right School for your Child by Brandi Roth and Fay Van Der Kar-Levinson.

Reference books such as Education Rankings Annual published by Gale Research and The Comparative Guide to American Elementary and Secondary Schools by Toucan Valley Publications are usually filled with up to date information. These books provide listings of school rankings, data on student populations and teaching staff qualifications, as well as expenditure and budgetary allocations per student. To attain purely statistical data, you may want to read Education Statistics of the United States published by Bernan Press. This collection provides educational statistics by state for over three thousand U.S. counties.



You can also contact your state's Education department or check its website to get a copy of your state report card. This report card contains relevant data on student attendance, dropout rates, academic performance, scores on standardized tests, class size, teacher-student ratios, and district expenditures.

Some websites that offer reports on schools include homefair.com and schoolmatch.com. Some like homefair provide free reports, while other like schoolmatch and PSK12, public school ranking may charge fees for specific reports ranging anywhere from $10 to $50.Make the investment only if the information you are seeking is being provided.

Besides just researching and collecting information about a school district, a beneficial way to sum up your findings is to actually visit the school district you are considering. Ask to talk to administrators, teachers, parents and students. Visit some school events if possible. Ask questions that are pertinent to your child's needs. For example what enrichment is provided for gifted children or what sort of special education services can children receive. Consider what if anything makes the school district you are considering outstanding from the others. Consider bringing your child along to see the new school district and take into account your child's input.

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