Qualities to Look for in a School—Does Your Child’s School Have Them?

The other day, a colleague told me about a problem her friend was having. Her friend’s son–a bright, mischievous teen–sometimes talked out of turn in class. Other than that, he wasn’t a behavior problem, yet his teachers were talking special education!

I asked if he was throwing chairs. “Oh, no,” she assured me. He wasn’t being intellectually challenged and was bored. This kind of “misbehavior” is typical of under-challenged, bright, and gifted kids.

I suggested that her friend look for another school. I told her that if they were crying “special ed” for no real reason, then this wasn’t the environment for him.


The Right School Environment


But, what is the right school environment? Especially for black boys, who are more likely to be referred for special ed placements than children of other races; along with Hispanic males, they make up 80% of all children in special ed.

Choosing the right school environment for your child is critical. In an article titled Decisions, Decisions: Deciding Which School Is Right for Your Child, originally published via the website Getting Smart, author Gabriella Rowe provides pointers for doing just that.
Rowe recommends the following:

  • An environment that celebrates learning through successful failure.
  • Engaged students in a culture of differences.
  • Teachers experienced in teaching a wide range of students.
  • Real-world learning experiences.

Below is an excerpt from this article:


An Environment That Celebrates Learning Through Successful Failure


One of the hardest things for a child to do is to get things wrong. But iterative learning, in which a child fails, assesses that failure, and tries again, is exactly what children need to ensure that they are authentically learning, and not just memorizing successive sets of facts. For parents, this means looking for a school where problem solving is more open ended; where students are asked to create their own path to learning through research and experimentation, not just by memorizing outcomes; and where students are given opportunities to test the depth of their knowledge through exams as a supplement.


A Cohort of Engaged Students in a Culture of Differences


One of the most powerful ways to ensure that a child continues to be intellectually stimulated and curious to learn is to surround them with capable and dedicated children, all of whom have different strengths and weaknesses. Peer influence, for better or for worse, is a powerful motivator, and students can realize their potential in schools filled with children who enjoy learning at a high level. As I often say to my students, there is nothing quite as cool as going to a school where “geeks” rule!


Read more at Getting Smart.