The top-five reasons to avoid a high school
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By GreatSchools Staff
3. The kids aren't graduating. Or at least a lot of them aren't. If the dropout rate is alarmingly high at the school you're considering, ask why. Are the teachers fully engaged? Are the students? Are they allowed to advance to the next grade level without meeting basic reading and math competencies? There are certainly examples of great schools that still struggle with a core of underachieving students (these kids are failing despite the schools’ best efforts, not because of them). But when underachievement is the norm, it can be hard for anyone — kids or teachers — to swim against the current for long.
4. Terrible teacher-to-student ratio. There's evidence suggesting that class size isn't the holy grail it's sometimes billed to be. But there's a caveat to that evidence: within reason. This year represents the first on record that the United States has seen education jobs decline while enrollment rose, according to BusinessWeek. This is a general trend, of course, and individual schools will weather it differently. Nevertheless, it serves to highlight the crisis of overcrowded classes and overworked teachers in some schools. When considering a high school, make sure there's space for your child — figuratively and literally.
5. It's not a good school. In a sense, identifying a bad high school isn't rocket science — as long as you know what the signs of a good one are. Harvard Graduate School of Education professor Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot outlined those very signs in her book The Good High School. "In good high schools students are treated with fearless and empathetic attention by adults," she writes. "Teachers know individual students well and are knowledgeable about adolescence as a developmental period." Visit the school you're considering. If the teachers don't fit that description, it could be a signal that you should look elsewhere.