The top-five reasons to avoid a high school
High schools don't post banners announcing when they are failing. So how are parents supposed to know which ones aren't doing their job?
By GreatSchools Staff
In its first months, the Obama administration declared that it wanted the nation's 1,000 lowest-performing schools to close and reopen under new management each year for the next five years. Many education reformers welcomed the announcement, but some parents were left with a basic question in the meantime: How do we know whether our school is one of the really bad ones?
Evaluating a school is a complex undertaking — perhaps no more so than with a high school, where student performance reflects not just the efficacy of that school but the effectiveness of every other school students have attended. Nevertheless, we've put together a list of the top-five reasons to avoid a high school, even if your son or daughter is begging to be enrolled there:
1. It's not safe. Bored teachers, uncreative lesson plans, a swim team without a pool — there are ways of working with shortcomings like these in a high school. But if the place isn't safe, that's a nonstarter. This isn't just for parents' peace of mind. Study after study has shown that concerns about safety at school have a significant affect on learning. If your local high school has a reputation for fight breaking out (or even bullying) there's no bigger warning sign. After all, if the principal can't ensure basic safety, it's likely that other priorities are going unmet too.
2. Bad teaching. Nobody sets out to be a bad teacher, but it can happen over time. Some years back, Guy Strickland published the handbook Bad Teachers: The Essential Guide for Concerned Parents. The book had its critics, but many parents found Strickland's breakdown useful. Education magazine came out with a handy summary of bad teachers' characteristics:
- They lack subject knowledge.
- They have poor classroom control.
- They act unprofessionally.
- They can't diagnose learning problems.
- They are obsessive about method (particularly about whole language, although Strickland is obsessive about phonics and an avid opponent of Madeline Hunter's work).
- They focus on the wrong goals.
- They have no goals at all.