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13 Questions to Ask on a School Tour

13 Questions to Ask on a School Tour

When choosing a school for your child, it's important to ask the below questions to pick the best one.

National School Choice Week, held Jan. 26-Feb. 1 in 2020, aims to raise awareness of the different types of kindergarten to 12th-grade education options available to children and families (magnet, charter, private, parochial, international, home schooling, public), while spotlighting the benefits of choosing what school your child attends. During the selection process, you’ll want to tour each school to get a feel for the environment, curriculum, and school philosophy.

After the tour, you will want to spend time talking to the person who gave you the tour. This is your opportunity, if you have not done so already, to ask your key questions—the ones you developed based on your Priorities Worksheet. Do not shy away from asking questions; school leaders usually want you to ask them questions, because they want you to make an informed and reasoned decision. In addition to the questions that you have written, here are some other questions that you might consider asking:

What is your approach to education, and what makes your school unique?

This question gives the school’s representative a chance to describe their school’s greatest asset or attribute—in their own words. School leaders should be able to give you a clear answer and describe the different ways that their school stands out.

What are your school’s academic expectations for students?

Ask this question to let school leaders know that you are focused on your child’s academic success, and that you want to talk about learning. This question will, hopefully, lead to a larger discussion of the school’s approaches and methods.

What are some of the things that you do to make sure that students are learning at, or above, their grade levels?

This question will establish that you, too, have expectations for schools—while providing school leaders with opportunities to explain how they work toward accelerating student learning and success.

I want to make sure my son/daughter learns a lot. Are the classes challenging and rigorous, but also relevant and interesting?

Children can often rise to meet the challenges of rigorous coursework, if it is presented in a relevant and interesting way. Ask this question to determine how a school combines rigor and relevance, so that your child truly absorbs useful knowledge and information.

Can you please tell me what you look for when you recruit teachers? How do you define an effective teacher?

Ask this question to determine if the school has a specific approach to finding knowledgeable, talented educators whose skills align with the school’s values and culture. Do school leaders consider student learning and success in determining whether teachers are effective?

How do you regularly monitor and evaluate student learning, and what do you do if students are struggling?

This question will help you find out when you will know if your child is learning at grade level, or if your child is struggling. For example, you do not want to wait a whole year to discover that your child needs extra help in a specific subject.

RELATED: How to help kids who are struggling with reading

How do you choose your curriculum and textbooks? Do you have a specific approach?

Ask this question, because if a school uses one specific curriculum or type of textbooks for all or most of its classes, you can research it when you get home and look at examples. If the school uses several different curricula, find out how the school decides which is best.

Do your teachers use a specific instructional strategy or method? (If so, what is it called, and can you explain what that means or how that works?)

This question will help you know what, specifically, happens in a classroom. If the school uses a particular instructional strategy, ask them to explain it. For example, if you are told that the school uses “differentiated instruction,” you might ask, “Can you describe how that looks day to day?”

Can you please tell me more about the different types of classes and activities you offer?

This question will help you determine whether the school offers the classes, clubs, activities, and sports programs that will be of interest to your child. This question will also help you identify if the school offers catch-up coursework along with advanced or gifted classes.

How do you foster an environment of mutual respect between students, teachers, and parents?

Care and respect cannot be easily measured on a test, but they should be experienced every single day in a school building. This question will help you gauge whether the school meets your standards for a caring environment and has built a culture of respect.

Please tell me more about your school’s approach to keeping students safe and preventing bullying.

Ask this question to determine whether the school has specific plans, policies, and procedures that align to your goals and priorities. If you are specifically concerned about bullying, I encourage you to ask follow-up questions about this, too.

Please tell me about your school’s approach to homework and testing.

Even if you do not worry too much about homework or testing, you want to make sure you know exactly what will be expected of you and your child. This question will help you get specific examples of school practices, so you can see if they align to your goals and priorities.

RELATED: Is homework necessary?

What are the opportunities you have for parents to be involved, and what are your expectations of parents?

By asking this question, you can determine whether a school has a thoughtful approach to parental involvement and engagement—activities that should go beyond just raising money for the school.

Excerpt reprinted with permission of Andrew Campanella, The School Choice Roadmap, Beaufort Books, New York, NY.


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Andrew Campanella


Andrew Campanella has served as president of National School Choice Week since 2012. From 150 events in 2011 to 40,549 in 2019, the NSCW has become the world’s largest education-related public awareness effort. Campanella is also the author of the forthcoming book The School Choice Roadmap: 7 Steps to Finding the Right School for Your Child, which offers practical advice to parents in navigating the process of exploring their options and choosing the best fit for their families.

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