What Type Of School Is Best For My Child?
When you are a parent, you always want what’s best for your child. This leads to seemingly millions of dilemmas over the course of the child’s life and one of the biggest is trying to figure out what type of school is best for them.
Nowadays, parents have many different choices in education for their children. One child may do well in a traditional public school, while another might excel if they are in a gifted program or in one that offers academics geared more towards the child’s interests, such as a STEM school. But, how do you know which is the right environment for your child’s specific needs?
What Are The Different Types Of Schools?
There are several types of schools, each featuring a certain learning structure. Parents must decide between public schools and private, as well as charter, choice, gifted, cluster, magnet, lab schools, and homeschooling. So, obviously, the first step in choosing a school is to understand what each type of school setting will offer children.
Public schools are located within a community and district. They generally must admit all students who live within the district. These schools get their operating money from local, state, and federal funding.
Most public schools are within or near neighborhoods. Sending your child to a public school makes it easy for them to get there and they usually will attend classes alongside friends from their area.
Some public schools are more specialized. For example, they might focus on certain subjects or be designed to help struggling students stay in school. An example is an alternative high school, which typically offers classes in a trade, such as hair styling or electrical work, to encourage teens to finish their education while getting early training in a career.
Charter schools are public schools with more autonomy than a traditional public school. They are run independently from the restrictions of a public school, so they can provide an intensive focus on a particular curriculum. One charter school might be geared toward college prep while another incorporates STEM components (science, technology, engineering and math) into each class.
Charter schools are held accountable to and operate under a contract (the “charter”) they have entered into with a charter school authorizer. These authorizers might be a university or college, a nonprofit organization, or may be part of a government agency.
Magnet schools (cluster schools) are also public schools. As with charter schools, magnet schools give students an education in a particular subject concentration (a cluster) of STEM subjects, languages, or the arts. Students who excel in science might want to go to a charter school that emphasizes science, for example.
Some magnet schools will accept any student who wishes to attend there, others may require the student pass a test or show they excel in a particular skill before they can be admitted.
Private schools are not funded by state or federal tax dollars – instead, students must pay a tuition fee in order to attend. These schools typically provide religious-based educations, but some are secular. Private schools either offer focused programs or they educate children according to a specific teaching philosophy (example: a Montessori school).
School choice is found in public schools and has two forms:
- Parents can request that their child go to a different school if the one the child would normally attend has been identified as needing restructuring, improvement, or corrective action, or
- School choice programs can allow parents to place their child in another school within the district if there are other options available. Parents may want to move their child out of a low-performing school, for example.
If you wish to move your child through school choice, the U. S. Department of Education says, “Districts must pay for students’ transportation costs, giving priority to low-income, low-achieving students if there are not enough funds available to pay for all students.”
All states offer some type of gifted-specific education. Some offer advanced classes, others provide for acceleration of the student’s grade or curriculum. Some states also have gifted high schools.
Generally operated by universities or colleges, lab schools provide a curriculum taught by teachers in training, under the guidance of the college’s education department. These schools offer a way for the educators to try out their methods and theories and give the student teachers a way to learn how to teach, firsthand.
Things To Consider When Choosing A School
There are many things to consider when choosing a school for your child. Obvious factors are your child’s needs and interests (i.e.: gifted, special education, or a particular focus, such as music or math), along with the school’s ability to provide the type of education you would like your child to have.
You also will want to think about:
- Whether your child would do better in a smaller or larger class size.
- Would they be better off in the same school as their friends?
- The school’s resources, such as their music program, gifted classes, sports team, or clubs.
- The distance to and from the school. How will your child get to school if it isn’t in the neighborhood? Is public transportation an option?
- How many kids graduate from the school vs dropping out?
- How much does the school cost? Are there fees for extracurricular programs?
- If your child has additional needs (example: developmental delays), how well can the school support those needs?
- Will you be expected to be involved in the school and how much participation is required?
- Are there online homework and learning options?
- If it is a high school choice, can your child earn college credit from the classes?
- What is the student to teacher ratio?
- What security measures does the school have in place?
It can help your decision to visit the school and take a tour. Is the school well maintained? Speak with some of the teachers to gauge their enthusiasm for working with the kids. Check out classrooms and watch how the students behave between classes or in the classroom.
Find Support When You Need It
Changing schools can be stressful for kids. Usually kids bounce back after a period of adjustment, but sometimes a big change can have a long lasting effect on a child. If your child is struggling in school, is anxious or sad, or has developed behavior that is concerning, they may have an undiagnosed learning disorder, depression, or other mood disorder.
Don’t ignore a problem – talk with a compassionate child psychologist.