What's the best school in my region?
"Dear WEA: I'm moving to Washington with my children, and was wondering if you could tell me the best district (or school) near my new job...."
It's a question we hear a lot. Often, the person asking about the "best" district is really asking about the best test scores. At WEA, however, we believe there's more to finding the best school for your child.
Washington is blessed to have great schools and wonderful teachers. To find the "best" school, you must decide what fits your family's own interests, beliefs and priorities -- and for most parents, test scores are only one measure of quality.
Here are some questions to ask when searching for a great school:
- Does your family specifically want a school district with a magnet program (such as in arts or music), or alternative approaches to curriculum, or strong competitive sports, or a great high school marching band, or strong special-ed, or programs for gifted students?
- Does your family emphasize the value of diversity, and the lessons that children can learn from other cultures when growing up among people who are not all the same?
- Does your family believe the most critical measure of a district is test scores? Math or reading scores at times might trend higher in an upper-middle-class suburb, but your child may learn little about the wealth of knowledge found within cultural diversity.
- Is a district's tolerance of your own family's religious teachings a crucial element?
Thinking about these differences and deciding on your own priorities are key first steps. Next, take a firsthand look at what's offered in your area. Most schools allow parents to visit to see the school environment. A school visit gives you a first-hand look at:
- The condition of school facilities;
- class sizes;
- the types of projects on display, and whether those projects demonstrate energy and creativity in routine assignments;
- the friendliness and energy of staff members;
- the availability of basic materials, equipment and supplies;
- the age of computers and text books; and
- the availability of special events and extracurricular programs.
Ultimately, which school is best for your children depends on your -- and their-- interests, beliefs and priorities.