Finding the Right School for Your Child


If you would like to send your child to a different school next year, now’s the time to start researching your options.

As Maryland commemorates Nat-ional School Choice Week (through Jan. 31) at 165 events across the state and nearly 11,000 events nationwide, many parents will begin evaluating educational opportunities that are available for their children.

Believe it or not, seats in schools are already beginning to fill for the 2015-16 school year. Interest in school choice — the process of actively choosing a public, charter, magnet, private or online school — is high. Waiting until the spring or the summer to begin researching schools for your children could restrict your options.

No handbook or tip sheet can truly guide parents through the entire process of selecting a school, because it is an individual experience that will be unique to every family.

For you, the parent, what’s most important to the academic, social and emotional well-being of your child? Is it the academic performance of a school, school safety, the school’s instructional methods, the qualifications of its teachers, the school’s educational theme or its shared values?

Once you’ve identified what matters most, start looking into the options. In addition to the local public school, you may be eligible to send your child to a school outside of your ZIP code or in a different school district. Look into nearby charter schools and magnet schools. Don’t leave private and faith-based schools off your list. You might be able to find scholarships, and for some families, online learning and homeschooling work best.

To find options available to you, look at information from the Maryland Department of Education as well as from state-based education-reform or school-choice websites. For a directory of most schools in your area, along with parent rankings and some performance metrics, visit

With your list of requirements and your list of schools in hand, start making appointments to visit the schools. Ask to sit in on classes and make sure to ask as many questions as possible of teachers, the administration and support staff. You’ll want to find out what motivates the adults in the building and see how the students respond to their teachers. Ask yourself: Is this a place where I would want to send my child for most of his or her weekday waking hours?

Finally, make sure to talk with other parents — and to your own children. Ask parents how the schools’ administrators treat parents and whether they welcome or discourage parental involvement. And most importantly, ask your children about their perceptions of the schools that you’ve visited. Find out what excites and motivates your child at school, but also ask about their worries, concerns and apprehensions.

Making the decision to change schools certainly isn’t easy. And switching schools isn’t a piece of cake, either. But if you start now and plan out the journey, you’ll find that the destination — a great school for your child — is well worth the diligence and effort.

Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here