1. Cast your net as widely as you want.
This is the fun part of the process. Look at anything and everything. No holds barred. If a school in Dallas appeals to you, put it on the list. If one in Lakeville, Connecticut floats your boat, add it to your list. You should end up with 15-20 schools on your first list. Be sure to visit each one virtually. Most schools will have videos so that you can get an idea of what the schools are like by watching the videos. This is not a substitute for visiting a school. It's merely the first pass.
2. Create a short list of schools.
This is where you have to determine which school or schools will be your safe school. What exactly is a safe school? It's a school to which you have an excellent chance of being admitted. It's a school which perhaps is not as competitive as some of the others on your list.
That is the challenge of the second step in this process. You must determine as accurately as possible which schools are genuine reaches or schools which you have a very small chance of getting in. Yes, anything is possible. But you don't need to be relying on a miracle to get you accepted at a school.
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.
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...
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? ...
Many questions will surface at this point. Here are some which you should answer before proceeding with a more detailed search for the right school. As you think of other questions which need answering, add them to the list.
- Why should your child attend a Jewish school?
- When should your child attend a Jewish school?
- How should your child be taught?
- What should your child be taught?
- Where should your child go to school?
This question addresses perhaps the most important aspect of this discussion. Why, indeed, do you want your child to have a Jewish education? This is something which only you as parents can decide. Is your family tradition driving this decision? Are your religious beliefs that important to you and your family that a Jewish education for your children is simply the only option? You need to understand that any parent who sends his child to a religious school is making a very strong statement about his faith and the importance it holds in his life. It will set your child from his peers in a very secular world where religious values and principles are routinely ignored. Giving your...
Visit the schools.
"Wait a minute!" you are thinking. What about important stuff like how selective the school is, where its graduates went to college, how many faculty have terminal degrees and so on? Put those considerations on hold. First things first. Visit the schools.
Would you buy a house based only on a few pictures and some publicly available information like taxes and comparables? No. You'd visit the house personally and look in every nook and cranny. You would visualize yourself living in the house with your things. You would make sure you liked the neighborhood. If being close to shops and other amenities is important to you, you would review that aspect of the equation as well. How long a commute to work will you have? The list of questions which you will want answered is your own very personal list of questions.
See where we are going with this? How the schools you visit fit your needs best determines which school is best for you. Right now you are probably beginning to realize that this is a lot of work and will take a lot of time. Our Checklist For Comparing Schools will help you...