How to Vet the Best School for Your Child

Have you ever wondered if your child’s school is effectually meeting your child’s needs? Have you thought, “Oh, he’s just not good in math,” or, “Reading was hard for me, too”? Does your child look forward to school, or would she rather stay home? Is he eager to talk to you about what he’s learning?

[Related: How One Organization is Helping to Improve Diversity at Independent Schools]

The excerpt below relates how one dad, happy with his daughter’s progress in first grade, grew concerned after hearing ominous talk about second grade. The talk spurs the man and his wife to take action and they begin so by doing research about educational options, including reading the New York Times best-seller, The Smartest Kids in the World.

They consider private school and–spoiler alert–end up putting their daughter in one. Although good schools that charge tuition (sometimes very unexceptional schools charge tuition) aren’t always an option, some private schools offer scholarships and grants to students who otherwise couldn’t afford them. For more information about independent school options for students of color, read Could an Independent School Be an Option for Your Child? 

Here’s the excerpt from The Smartest Kids in the World:

My youngest daughter was doing fine in first grade. She was fluent in two languages, played piano, and seemed to enjoy school. The teachers and staff we met at our public school were dedicated and kind.

Then, last summer, I got an education about what goes into making a great school and smart kids.

It was towards the end of the school year when we heard that the second-grade student-teacher ratio would be 33:1. That seemed high, and my wife and I wondered how any adult could maintain order in such a class, never mind teach all those children.

Some friends were looking at private schools, and my wife suggested we find out more. But I resisted. I loved the sense of community at our local school. Besides, I said, “It’s only second grade.” When our daughter seemed to struggle with math, we figured “maybe she’s just not good at math” and took solace in knowing she was good at languages and music.

We talked about this over dinner with my cousin, who founded the Milestone School in Mt. Vernon, New York. Her young students put on plays by Shakespeare, learn foreign languages, and play chess. Her curriculum seemed fundamentally more rigorous. She taught me that, although our daughter was only in second grade, the skills and learning habits she acquired now were crucial for when things get more difficult in later grades.

Then in July we went to Japan and stayed with my sister-in-law’s family. Their kids attended public school but they also went to after-school sessions and did extra homework. We saw how even the younger child was doing math far beyond what our daughter was doing. She was embarrassed. So she took some of their worksheets and practiced. With a little help, she caught up in a few weeks.