During the school year, children spend close to half of their waking hours in the classroom. Not only is it a sizable portion of their day, but a student’s educational experiences will set the stage for the rest of their life. It’s no wonder, then, that so many parents fret over which school is best for their kids.

Every child has unique needs, and as the parent or caregiver, you know best what kind of environment they need to flourish. Because Arizona has been at the forefront of school choice, often families have a distinctively diverse selection of schools to choose from – traditional public, public charter, private, career/technical are some of the primary options. So, which of these options is best for your child?

choosing-a-school Here are five questions to consider when evaluating your options:

  1. What academic programs are in place to help your child learn? Depending on age, you might enquire whether the school offers full-day kindergarten, which is a great way to get a head start on learning.At the high school level, there are often special programs that fit the unique interests of your child, such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate that afford the opportunity to gain college credit before graduating. Or perhaps your student is especially intrigued by science or technology. In that case, there are many schools that boast dedicated hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) programs. If your student is particularly interested in pursuing a trade, perhaps a school that offers strong career and technical education programs is best.

  2. How does the school perform on key indicators of success? Measurable school outputs include AzMERIT test scores, graduation rates and the number of students who continue on to complete training or education after high school. Many of these data can easily be identified on the Education Evaluator.Test scores are an important consideration, but just as your child’s AzMERIT scores aren’t the only measure of success, a school’s test results should be blended with many other factors to evaluate options such as the leadership of the school and teacher quality.

  3. What does the school offer beyond traditional academics? Many youth may crave access to sports, the arts or other specialized extracurricular activities. Before committing to any institution, consider how your student will want to get involved and whether the school offers that sort of activity.

  4. Is the size and feel of the campus right for your family? Some students thrive in the bustle of a large school, while others seek the pace of a smaller campus. Of course, there are perks and drawbacks to each, but average classroom size can be a good indicator of whether a particular institution will be a good fit.For private schools and those that are outside of your own district, size and demand might also impact admissions policies and the likelihood of your child securing a spot at the school, so it’s best to understand the admissions process and to have back-up options.

  5. Does the organization’s philosophy mirror your own? Study the school’s website, ask friends and neighbors, and speak with school leadership to learn more about their approach to learning, as well as their disciplinary policies.The values espoused by faculty and staff are paramount to the success and well-being of your child. For instance, does the school have a guiding philosophy and if so, how does it show up in the classroom? Does the school support their teachers or is there a high turn-over rate? How strictly are behavioral problems addressed?