This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Visiting a school that your child may attend is the best way to get a full picture of what the school has to offer. Bring this list of questions and any concerns about your child’s special needs and jot down notes as you visit.
School District policy states that the District "welcomes and encourages visits by parents and others who desire to become informed regarding schools and educational programs." But the policy also gives some latitude to principals in scheduling visits and determining to whom the visitor can talk. Some schools are more welcoming to visitors than others.
Schools should be contacted in advance to schedule your visit.
- How are you received upon visiting?
- What role are parents expected to play in the school?
- Does the school have a strong parents’ association?
- What kinds of events does the parents’ association
- How many parents attend?
- How are parents informed about schedule changes and school events?
- How are parents informed about their child’s progress?
Physical environment and resources:
- What are your first impressions?
- Is this somewhere you would feel comfortable sending your child every day?
- Does the school feel safe? Is it clean?
- Do classes have sufficient textbooks and other curricular materials for all the students?
- What facilities are there for recreation and the arts?
- Is the school well equipped with computers that are accessible to students?
- Is there a library with a variety of resources?
- How many students are in each classroom?
- Do students and teachers treat one another respectfully?
- Are students actively engaged?
- Are all encouraged to participate?
- Is technology integrated into the lesson plan?
- Is student work displayed?
- Do the materials displayed reflect attention to diversity?
- How much class time is spent handling discipline issues compared to learning?
- How does the school handle parental involvement with discipline problems?
- How is good behavior encouraged and rewarded?
- What percentage of students attends daily?
- How strong is the school’s teaching and academic program?
- What percentage of students is performing at grade level in math and in literacy?
- How much time is spent on social studies and science?
- Does the school offer advanced or specialized classes?
- Is there a high teacher turnover or student transfer rate?
- Have individuals or groups recently received any academic honors or awards?
For high schools:
- What is the graduation rate?
- What percentage of students goes on to 4-year colleges?
- How many go on to other post-secondary education?
- Is a variety of college preparatory classes offered?
- What extracurricular activities, clubs, and sports teams are offered?
- Does the school have a student newspaper?
– Compiled by Laura Sullivan