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February 7, 2010


The newspaper take on choosing a school

by Chris Lindholm

The Minneapolis Star Tribune ran a story today titled "Shopping for a School" that offers advice from U of MN College of Education associate professor, Yvonne Gentzler, on how to select a school to send your children to.  My reaction to advice from newspaper articles regarding critical issues like education is usually an irritated bristle at the gossipy tone and lack of depth.  Nine times out of ten it seems a more scholarly approach could be found in the cereal aisle at Cub Foods.  While I can't claim that this article was a home run, it certainly offered more than the state's "5 star rating scale" on our annual school report cards.  Gentzler encouraged making a list of criteria in advance of going on a visit that is focused on what's important to you.  Other tips offered for choosing a school included:

  • Visit the school's website
  • Attent open houses and request a visit during the school day – preferably with your child… When you're at the school, notice what happens in the halls between classes
  • Consider class sizes – some kids will do fine in larger classes; others won't
  • Learn about the school's support system
  • Check out the lunchroom
  • Ask about recess – supervision, how much time, etc…
  • Find out about transportation and before & after school programs
  • Talk with other parents at the school to find out what their kids like or don't like about it
  • Talk with the teachers – ask about expectations, homework, how they communicate with parents, and how behavior issues are dealt with.
  • Ask about parental involvement
  • Attend a sports event and observe how the coaches treat the players, how the fans conduct themselves and if there is a sense of school spirit.
  • Ask about co-curricular activities.   

So…  I admit my first reaction was to notice a lack of any real mention about student learning only to recognize that I did appreciate not having a bunch of test score variables listed.  The more I reflected on the article, the more I appreciated that the advice Gentzler gave actually focused on real questions and real variables for parents that can't be articulated through test scores or the MN school report card. 

What are your thoughts?  Is this the criteria that we should be held to?  Educators – is this the advice you would offer?  How should we be measured?

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1 Comment Post a comment
  1. Braa
    Feb 15 2010

    In searching for a school for my child, my wife and I looked at most of these but focused as much effort on academics. We wanted to ensure that our child would be pushed acadmically in a healthy environment. I also looked to MCA scores of the schools to ensure that they were all comparable.


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