- Check out the school’s report card. Look for information on the school district's website and, if you can't find it, call the superintendent to request it. You can also do some research at GreatSchools.net and SchoolDataDirect.org.
- Take it to the state level. The No Child Left Behind Act website is a good place to get statewide information.
- Get the details from the principal. Ask questions about the facilities, school policies, teacher evaluations, and the school's track record. (For more detailed questions to ask, read the Work It, Mom! article: How to evaluate a public school.)
- Visit the school. Get a first-hand look at the facilities, the location, the surrounding environment.
- Talk to the teachers and staff. Do they send their own kids there? Why or why not?
- Talk to parents. Attend a PTO meeting, or ask the principal for the names of parents of current students who might be willing to chat with a newcomer.
- Find out about the finances. Are there any additional fees? What's the status of the school's finances? (For more detailed questions to ask, read the Work It, Mom! article: How to evaluate a public school.)
- Read up on local news. Check out the coverage of the school district in local newspapers, and be sure to take a look at the letters to the editor for feedback on what the locals are really saying.
- Consider your child's current and possible future needs. Does your child need any special services? What does the district have to offer?
- Look for red flags. Districts often save money by cutting arts and music programs, or by increasing the fees for participation in sports.
Evaluating a new school or district can be a daunting task. Here are 10 steps to take when trying to figure out which school will be a good fit for your child.