In an earlier thread, someone asked me about the WASL scores at Pathfinder. I honestly hadn't looked at them before, so I spent some time doing a little research. I found they were pretty much in line with other schools with similar student demographics (racial and income), but if I had been choosing a school based on test scores, I wouldn't have chosen Pathfinder. Nothing about the test scores indicates how truly wonderful the school is and how well it meets my children's needs.
"Our schools have become obsessed with assessment," Esquith told a standing-room-only crowd Sunday at the Seattle Central Library. "You must consider the point of view of the child."
Every child and family has different needs, so the criteria for choosing a school should differ as well. Everyone, however, can benefit from thinking about what is important for you and your child, and creating a list of things to observe during school tours. Use the list below as a starting point and modify it to meet your needs.
Does the teacher appear to have high standards for all students? What kind of language does the teacher use when talking with students, both as a group and individually? Does the teacher single out students for praise or blame/shame? and if so, is it always the same students? How clear is the teacher about expectations for the students, both academically and behaviorally? Does the teacher share power/authority/decision-making with the students? Does the teacher let the students play the "expert" role occasionally? How does the teacher respond to student questions? Do students show respect and/or affection for the teacher?
Are students given the chance to work in small groups? How do students treat each other? Does anything in the curricula or the school day structure provide students with the skills and time necessary to work on resolving conflict and improving interpersonal skills? Are there strong cliques or groups in the classroom? And if so, what does the teacher do to encourage students to cross groups and get to know other students.
Is team-teaching a part of the school? Do teachers share information and learn from each other? Do teachers share information about students to make sure students' needs are met? Does the school have a clear educational focus/philosophy that is shared among teachers?
Is the curricula rigorous and relevant? How much flexibility do students have to explore particular areas of interest? Is the curricula differentiated so that all students are challenged? What kind of extra support is provided for students who are not meeting curricular standards and/or have different learning styles? Is meta-cognition (reflection on the learning process) a part of the curricula? Does the curricula emphasize skills transmission or critical thinking skills, or provide a balance of both?
Do the kids seem to be happy to be at school? What does the principal say about teachers? What do the teachers say about the principal and other school staff members? What kind of learning opportunities are provided for teachers and staff? Is there an active PTSA? And if so, how large and diverse? Is parent involvement in the classroom welcomed? Is parent involvement encouraged and supported for parents who are unable to be present during the school day?