You want the best learning environment for your child, but test scores only go so far in giving an accurate picture of an elementary school. A variety of factors affect how well children learn at a particular school, from the leadership and passion of the teachers to the services offered. Knowing what to look for in a quality elementary school will help you choose one for your child.
The staff plays a major role in the educational quality at an elementary school, from the teachers to the superintendent. The leadership within the district sets the tone and helps guide the rest of the staff toward achieving specified goals and standards. Administrators need a direct relationship with staff, with high expectations for teachers. The teaching staff affects the quality of education by passing on those high expectations to the young learners. Effective teachers show a passion for the field and get the kids just as excited about learning. Elementary teachers need a strong understanding of math and reading, since these subjects build the foundation for learning. The classes should have a sense of control while allowing students to explore and make connections through hands-on learning activities.
An elementary school doesn't need a brand-new, sparkling facade to provide a top-notch education, but a safe, organized physical environment is a key component. Children need a sense of security to feel comfortable with learning and taking risks within the classroom. Organization of the materials within the classroom allows for efficient use of time by both students and teachers. Access to picture books, updated textbooks and hands-on learning materials, such as science-experiment tools, creates a positive learning environment for young children.
Every elementary school has a general curriculum used to guide classroom instruction at each grade level. This curriculum incorporates the state standards for each subject area. Some elementary schools offer very little beyond this basic instruction. For the average student, the regular classroom instruction may be sufficient, but additional programs at the elementary level address a wider range of abilities. Other academic programs may include special education and ESL. Enrichment programs, either during school or after school, expand on the usual classroom material to benefit young students of all ability levels. For example, the school might offer an after-school program for foreign language or drama. Explore the available programs and resources beyond the regular classroom instruction.
The overall level of involvement affects the climate of the elementary school. A quality school generally includes a high degree of involvement from parents, staff and community members. An active PTA is one way to gauge the participation in the school community. Support for fundraisers and a general interest in the school from local businesses and community members are other indicators. When adults get involved in the educational process, they hold the school district accountable and show children that the community cares. Ask school administrators and other members of the community about the involvement at the school. Observe for yourself how adults stay active in the school.
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images