For many families with children, one of the most important aspects of buying a new home is choosing what school district to live in. But what if you’re unfamiliar with the area? How do you know which school or district would be the best fit for you?
KNOW YOUR VALUES
Before you begin your research on schools, take some time to identify what your values are when it comes to your child’s education. These will not be the same for everyone. Things to consider: school size, class size, diversity, access to specialty classes, capacity to serve students with disabilities or special needs, teacher retention and satisfaction, curriculum, test scores, mission statement, location, and more! Figure out what matters most to your family so you’ll know what you’re looking for when you find it.
Iowa has School Performance Profiles to offer information on demographics, performance in areas such as proficiency, achievement, and graduation rate, and more. You can use this information to compare different school districts and see how their numbers stack up against each other, but keep in mind that numbers don’t always tell the whole story of what it’s actually like to attend that school.
Many schools and school districts have their own websites, which are a great place to find helpful information such as starting and ending times, school calendar, before and after school program information, and policies. Take some time to look around each website and make notes of important pros and cons.
Seek out the experiences of parents whose children go to each school. (Facebook parent groups are a great place to do this!) Parents will be able to tell you first-hand information about the benefits and drawbacks of their school, how they feel about the teachers, and what they love and what they wish were different. No school is perfect, and not every parent will have the same experience at the same school, so remember that opinions are just opinions, and your own experience may differ.
VISIT SCHOOLS IN PERSON
One of the most powerful ways to get a sense for what a school is like is to walk down its halls. Take in the experience of stepping foot inside the building, see the classrooms and lunchroom, check out the playground, and if possible, talk to the principal to ask any questions you have. A tour can help you imagine your child in that setting and determine goodness of fit.
Ultimately, we know that Iowa offers many high quality schools, and we are lucky to live in an area that places a high value on education. No matter what you’re looking for in a school, if you can do a little research and ask questions, you’re sure to find the right fit for you.