Visiting a school gives you a chance to see the classrooms in action and to experience the school culture firsthand. You know your student best and a visit can help you determine whether a particular school will be a good fit. There’s a lot going on at every school so we’ve created this list of things to look for and questions you might want to ask in order to help you focus on what you want to learn from your visit.
THINGS TO NOTICE ON A SCHOOL VISIT
IN THE CLASSROOM
- How is the furniture configured?
- Can students easily interact and collaborate?
- Is there open space for gathering together?
- What’s on the walls? Is student work displayed?
- Can you see individual differences in the work?
- Is the space cheerful and appealing?
- Are there books available in the classroom? Can students reach them?
- What “things” are in the room? Is it full of art supplies, pets, plants, science equipment; “sense of purposeful clutter”?
SIGHTS + SOUNDS
- Whose voices do you hear?
- Is the teacher’s voice genuine and respectful?
- Do you hear a hum of activity and ideas being exchanged?
- Do the students look engaged?
- Are students working alone, in pairs or groups?
- How are they interacting with each other?
- Is the learning joyful?
- Where is the teacher? Can you find him among the students? Is she behind her desk?
- How do the students react to visitors? Are they warm and eager to share what they’re doing?
AROUND THE SCHOOL
- Is the overall atmosphere appealing? Is it a place where you would want to spend time?
- Does student work fill the hallways?
- Is there a school library? Is it well-stocked and comfortable?
- What is the condition of the bathrooms?
- If you get to peek at the faculty lounge, is it a warm and inviting place for staff to spend time?
- Is the school clean?
SIGHTS + SOUNDS
- How were you greeted? Is the staff welcoming toward visitors?
- Are students in the hallways greeted by name?
- Are adults actively engaged with supervising and facilitating recess and lunch?
- Do you feel a sense of community?
- Does the school feel like a safe place?
ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS TO ASK
- What makes your school unique? How is it different from all the other schools available to me?
- What is your policy on parents visiting the classroom?
- What’s the average class size at your school?
- Is there an active parents’ group? If so, how are parents involved?
- What type of organized, family engagement activities do you offer?
- Do you offer special education and gifted/enrichment programs?
- Can you talk about the school’s performance on student assessment tests?
- How do you handle discipline and student conflicts?
- What is the principal’s background and how long has he/she been at the school?
- What percent of your teachers have teaching credentials? What is the training of those who do not?
- What are your academic goals for students in kindergarten?
- What skills and knowledge are parents expected to reinforce at home?
- How do you accommodate a range of learning needs (specifically your child’s unique learning style)? (This is best asked individually since it may not apply to everyone in a group tour.)