Researching a New School
Question: We are looking to relocate to a new state on the East Coast. My daughter will be in the fifth or sixth grade when we move. Where can we find the best information regarding schools in the city where we plan to live?
Begin by going online to the new state’s Department of Education website. State websites can be “one-stop shopping” for a new school. On many sites, you can enter the type of school that you are seeking in categories such as general location, schools of excellence, size of school, class size and student achievement. Schools that fit your basic parameters will be listed. Then you can click on different schools and compare them in areas such as teacher quality, school safety and environment, and access to technology.
On other state websites, schools often are organized by city, county or school district. The sites may also tell you how to contact nonpublic education schools.
The state website is a good starting point, but it only offers quantitative information. For more information about the character of individual schools, you definitely need to visit the websites of the local school systems that interest you. This will help you determine other important factors, such as the breadth of academic and extracurricular offerings and school leadership.
Finally, there is no substitute for visiting the schools where you are seriously considering enrolling your daughter to see the actual buildings and to absorb the atmosphere of the school.
In your case, there is one additional consideration. In many school districts, children leave elementary school at the fifth or sixth grade level to attend middle school, while others offer grades K-8 schools. Consider the school configuration that you want for your child.
Finding the best program for high-ability kindergarteners
My daughter will begin kindergarten in the fall. She is reading at a late first grade/early second grade level, and her math skills are similar. Do I let the teacher know this at the beginning of the year and ask for extension activities or just do nothing? I don’t want to be labeled “one of those parents,” but I want to make sure there are opportunities for my child’s growth in these areas, even though they are beyond the state benchmarks for her grade.
Typically, the kindergarten teacher should be given the chance to identify your daughter’s academic abilities. However, as you may want to find a more challenging kindergarten program, you need to do some investigating now. Contact the school and arrange for an appointment to talk with a kindergarten teacher or administrator. Ask what provisions the school has in place for students who are one to two years above grade level in reading and math. Your daughter is definitely not the first child to have entered this kindergarten and been capable of working above grade level.
If the school does not have a curriculum or a policy of challenging children like your daughter, you might want to look for a more academic program for your daughter at a different school. The district may have a school for gifted children or a magnet school that could be more appropriate for your child. If the application period is over for public school options, you could look into these programs for the future.
You did not mention if this is a half- or a full-day program. That would definitely make a difference, as there will be less time for reading and math activities in a half-day program.
Remember that you can also provide some of the academic stimulus your daughter needs by enrolling her in programs outside of school that challenge her. Don’t get so focused on reading and math that you forget other academic areas such as music, art, science or foreign languages. Your daughter is constantly learning from her entire environment; don’t just limit her to reading and math knowledge. n
Parents can send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.