Evaluating Schools

Here you will find resources and tools to aid in your search and evaluation of private schools. Explore the ranking system and read what schools have to say about it. Learn more about the most important questions to ask and how an education consultant can get answers. Use our checklists to help compare school administration, curriculum and more.
View the most popular articles in Evaluating Schools:
How Do They Teach?
Part of evaluating the schools on your short list is examining how the teaching is done.
Laying the Groundwork for an Education
"How do they teach?" is a  question which has to be in the back of your mind as you begin to consider sending your child to private school. It also is relevant at almost any stage of that process. Whether you are looking at your options for preschool, primary school, middle school or high school, how the teachers teach is just as important as what they teach. As you review the curriculum, you need to familiarize yourself with how it is taught. Make sure that aspect matches your requirements.

Let's look at three areas of concern which we as parents have faced outside the classroom as we have raised our children. We had control of what we taught and how we shaped our child's thinking up to the point where she went off to school. That changes once she is being taught by somebody else and interacting with other children. The following three areas are interdependent, are complementary and overlap. They have to form the backdrop for effective classroom teaching.

1. Developing critical thinking.

Writing teaches a child to document events, feelings, ideas and facts. Organizing materials and marshalling facts help a child make sense of huge amounts of information. Since writing is such an important skill, closely examine how the school teaches writing.

Reading is the other skill which needs to be taught early and effectively. Having your child taught reading by a skilled reading teacher is something you want to make sure is part of the...
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Is It Worth Using a Consultant?
Here are the reasons why using the services of a professional educational consultant is worth it.
Here are 5 reasons why you ought to consider using a consultant to help you find the right school.

1.  Consultants know their schools.
Why is this important? After all, the internet gives you everything you need to know about schools, right? Not exactly. Don't forget that a school's web site presents its story as the school wants it told. The videos are compelling. The photos are gorgeous. And the testimonials are glowing. As they should be. However, an educational consultant works for you. Not the school. She is paid by you. Not the school. She will point out features and aspects to a school's program which you perhaps have not thought of. Why is that? Because she is a professional. Just like an attorney will point out the pluses and minuses in a contract, an educational consultant can and will point out the advantages and disadvantages of a particular school as they relate to your child.

2.  Consultants have contacts at schools.
Educational consultants visit schools. They make a point of keeping their networks current. As a result they can get answers to questions which you may or may not think about asking. They will know that a certain school has just been made an IB school and what that means and says about the school's programs. They will know that the long time English department head has retired and that some exciting, new programs are in the works. That means that an educational consultant can get answers to your questions because...
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Checklist for Comparing Schools - Curriculum and Instruction
What's being taught and how it is being taught are important parts of your checklist for comparing schools on your short list.
When you begin comparing schools on your short list, you need to review what is being taught and how it is being taught. Instruction goes to the heart of what private schools are really all about. That is the main reason private schools exist. Parents want certain things taught and they want them taught a certain way. The state education department will require every school under its jurisdiction to meet certain minimum requirements. For example, a high school student must receive a certain number of credits in English and mathematics in order to graduate. Private schools typically exceed any minimums specified by the state department of education.

With this as a backdrop you want to take time to review the courses offered in the schools on your short list. Do they match your objectives and requirements? Do they offer the depth and intensity which you want your child to have? For example, Shakespeare is taught in many public high school English courses. Typically one play will be covered. By contrast a private school English class will read two or three Shakespeare plays. Because private school classes are small and the students focused on their academic work, much more can be accomplished.

International Baccalaureate
About thirty private schools offer a curriculum known as the International Baccalaureate. It is a comprehensive program which covers kindergarten through 12th grade. The diploma program is offered in high school. Like any other international diploma the IB offers consistency and a high standard. As a result...
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Checklist for Comparing Schools: Administration and Faculty
Here are some of the questions to ask and things to look for when comparing schools' administration and faculty.
When you begin comparing schools on your short list, it is important to at least be aware of certain important aspects of the school and its operation. While you can certainly tell whether a school is well-run just by visiting it and observing the condition of the grounds and facilities, it is worth asking a few detailed questions. The answers to these questions can be found online as a rule, so explore the school's website thoroughly before asking the admissions staff.

How long has the headmaster/principal been in office?
This question speaks to the stability of the school. If the headmaster or headmistress (also called head and occasionally director) has been there for a couple of years, that's a good sign. Private school heads will stay forever if they are doing a good job and the trustees are satisfied with his job performance. Nowadays a private school head is the de facto CEO of the school. But his major responsibility is going to be in the area of fundraising. Public relations is another part of his brief.

If the door to the headmaster's office has become a revolving one with several heads coming and going over a period of a few years, you might want to find out why they didn't stay. Most private schools conduct national searches for a head of school and involve the school community in the process. So it would be unusual for a school to get the fit wrong.

How large is the endowment?            ...
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5 Questions Your Consultant Can Ask and You Can't
Use an educational consultant to ask those tough questions you are not comfortable asking.
Parents are in a difficult position when it comes to finding out information about schools. Because they are private schools, they are not subject to the usual sunshine or freedom of information laws. They are under no legal obligation to tell you anything. You need to know exactly what is lurking behind those gorgeous web photos and  enthusiastic classroom shots.
 
The following questions are ones you might want to ask but might feel uncomfortable asking. That's why it's a good thing to hire an educational consultant. She can ask such questions with relative impunity. Plus she will think of dozens of other questions and raise many other issues about schools which will factor into your choice of schools
 
1. Why did those five seniors get expelled just before graduation?
Perhaps there was an article in the local press. It doesn't matter. The Internet makes unwelcome publicity widely available in minutes. Naturally you want to know what happened just in case the situation is symptomatic of something more serious. You will probably learn a lot about how the school enforces its code of conduct which you and your child could be signing if you decide to go there.

2. Is it true that the school is having financial difficulties?
There are plenty of signals that a school is in trouble. Declining enrolments and staff turnover are just two of the more obvious signs. No sense in sending your child to a school which is having problems. Your consultant will have made discreet inquiries...
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EVALUATING SCHOOLS