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How do I choose a middle school for my child?

Finding a quality school is important to the academic success of your child. There are many factors that you may want to consider before choosing a school; here are some of them:

School Evaluation Measures

Measures that will help you evaluate and compare schools include:

  • Academic Performance Index (API). The API is a numeric ranking of your child's school. The API measures academic performance and improvement based on the academic performance of its students. The API is calculated using the Stanford 9 test results as well as state content standards. You can compare your school's API scores for the current and previous year to measure improvement. You can also compare your child's school to other schools or even to the state requirements. For more information on the Academic Performance Index, visit the California Department of Education's Fact Book 2007 website:

  • School profile. The school profile is a report card that outlines how the school and its students are performing. The profile typically provides the school's API score, average class size, statistics on teacher certification and experience, student-support programs, student demographics, and curriculum information. For more information on school profiles, visit this website:

  • Teacher certification and professional experience. Teacher certification and experience are often a reflection of the quality of teachers at the school. Teachers who are certified and have experience have typically mastered their subject matter and have been equipped with the knowledge and tools to academically assist students. In addition, certified teachers tend to maintain high expectations, which will very often keep the students challenged and motivated to learn. The school profile contains the percentage of teachers who have a full credential as well as the average number of years the teachers have taught.

  • Class size or teacher-student ratio. Class size or the ratio of teachers to students can affect the academic success of some students. Some students benefit more from a small class size; teachers may be able to provide more individual assistance to students in this type of an environment. The average class size and teacher-student ratio can be found in the school's profile.

    To obtain the API and school profile for your child's school, contact the school or visit one of the following websites:

  • School safety. School safety is important for the academic and social development of your child. If your child fears going to school, he/she may not be able to concentrate on his/her school work, which may result in poor school performance. To gauge school safety, ask the administrators about school and neighborhood crime as well as the school's discipline policies.

  • School advisement staff. School counselors and social workers can help your child with academic and non-academic matters. Counselors provide academic advisement and guidance; social workers provide social and behavioral advisement and guidance. The support offered by counselors and social workers can help to motivate your child and enhance his/her grades. You may want to ask about the counselor-to-student ratio as well as the certification and training of the counselors and social workers on staff.

  • School resources. The availability and quality of school resources gives you insight into what tools may be available to assist with your child's academic and social development. When assessing school resources, you may want to look for:

    • A library that has enough resources and publications
    • Computers with upgraded programs and Internet services, and televisions that may be used by teachers for academic instruction
    • Recreational equipment and facilities
    • Updated books and learning materials
    • Adequate supply of desks and chairs in the classrooms
    • Facilities for disabled persons
    • Health facilities and/or a nursing staff

  • School environment. The school environment is important to your child's academic success. Factors that contribute to the school's environment include:

    • Attitudes of school staff
    • Attitudes of the school's students
    • Availability of student and parent-support programs
    • Availability of school staff for students and parents
    • School resources and equipment
    • Cleanliness of the facilities, including restrooms and eating areas

  • Student-support programs. Student-support programs can enhance the academic and social development of your child. In addition, these programs provide positive environments in which students are exposed to both peer and adult role models. Many of these programs often provide educational, after-school services that will keep your child challenged mentally beyond the regular school day. These programs may also be able to assist your child if he/she has any academic or social problems. Examples of student-support programs include sports, tutoring, art, and music programs as well as student clubs and interest groups. Ask at the school, school district office, and within your community about available student-support programs and services.

  • Parent involvement practices. Collaboration between family and school is important in the academic preparation of your child. A school that encourages parent participation should:

    • Invite parents to visit the school
    • Coordinate occasional parent activities after work hours or on the weekends. (These activities may include parent nights, back-to-school nights and parent workshops)
    • Provide you with information about parent-support programs and associations
    • Respond to your questions in a timely manner
    • If requested, provide you with resources that will support your student
    • Keep you informed about what is going on at the school. (This may include hosting information nights or providing you with school calendars, newsletters, handbook)
    • Encourage you to get to know the school's staff
    • Encourage you to become involved in school activities and events
    • Invite you to attend school board and Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meetings

    Things To Do Before Choosing a School

    Before selecting a school, you may want to:

    • Research and compare the API and profiles of schools in your area. A resource that can assist you in this manner is the website:
    • Research crime statistics for each school's neighborhood. Contact the school district or the local police department for more information on crime statistics.
    • Make an appointment to visit the school on a regular school day. This will give you a good idea of the school's environment and staff. Be sure to ask for a day and time in which you will be able to talk to the principal, teachers, and other school staff. Ask if it is possible for you to observe a classroom in session.
    • Attend a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or school board meeting. This will give you insight into the school's functions and other areas of concern. This will also give you a feel for the level of parent involvement at the school.

    Questions To Ask While Visiting Schools

    When visiting a school, you may want to consider asking the following questions:
    • How many of your teachers are state-certified?
    • What professional development opportunities are available for the continued training of teachers?
    • How do you keep parents informed about what is going on in the school?
    • How often do you host parent activities? What type of parent activities does the school offer?
    • How safe is your school?
    • Does your school provide bus transportation for students?
    • What after-school activities and programs does your school provide?
    • What is your dress code for students?
    • How do you measure student performance and learning?
    • How do you measure school performance?
    • What are some characteristics that are unique to your school?
    • What is your attendance policy for students? Do you notify parents when students have unexcused absences?
    • Do you have remedial and accelerated programs for students who may be underachieving or overachieving in academic areas?

    Additional Resources

    For additional information on finding a school for your child, visit the following websites:

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