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Define your ideal school

Decide what is important to you and your family when choosing a school for your child. Consider practical matters, the academic program and the school's culture.

By GreatSchools Staff

What qualities are you looking for in a school? Think about what matters most to you by answering each question below.

The practical

It's important to consider practical matters to help narrow your school search. These include your family's child care needs during nonschool hours, daily and yearly schedule, transportation, school location, coordination of your other children's school schedules and your financial constraints.

1. Which types of schools are you interested in?

  • public
  • private
  • charter
  • magnet
  • homeschooling
  • religious

2. How far from home are you willing to travel, and what transportation needs do you have?

  • walking distance
  • driving distance — 1 mile, 5 miles, 10 miles
  • need bus transportation

3. Does your child have any needs that require special attention?

  • learning disabilities
  • bilingual education
  • physical disabilities
  • other

4. Do you need child care before or after school?

  • before school
  • after school
  • half day (kindergarten)

5. Which school facilities are important to you?

  • modern building
  • safe/large playground
  • wireless and laptops
  • computer lab
  • playing fields and sports facilities

6. Would your child perform better in a small or a large school?

  • under 100 students
  • under 200 students
  • under 500 students
  • any size

Comments from readers

"What is a magnet school? My child has learning disabilities, so I am concerned to find a school that takes these above seriously. He is in 8th grade, we plan to move from NH to AZ, so as I know this is not ideal, I'm hoping to find the smoothest transition I can find. What school would you recommend"
"Why isn't moral and ethic emphasis be one of the options in the school evaluation?"
" Useful"
"I have a son with learning disabilities, he has been diagnosed with ADHD ,he is now in high school in san jose CA at grade 12 under IEP program,his progress is very slow,i need special school or center with better program for him,thank you so very much.' "
"Teachers, teachers, teachers. School is (or should be) all about teaching and learning. Credentialed teachers are the most important attribute of a great school. Would you chose the doctor who had the best waiting room or biggest parking lot?"
"these are great questions to ask your self I had 4 kids in high school and for all of them I asked myself these questions and they are all keeping there 4.0 since 1st grade"
"hello, i have a 4 year old daughter who will be starting preschool this fall. we will be relocating to lubbock texas by the end of december and i know nothing about the many different school districts. she is very advanced and i don't want her to get bored easliy by going over things i have already taught her.please help me find a school or program for the 'gifted' or a school that will allow her to skip grades. thank you so very much."
"Hi, I am a Case Manager working with several wonderful adolescents age range from 6-21, all wish have a diagnosis of some kind ADHD, Conduct Disorder etc… I love them all dearly and want nothing but the best for each of them. However it becomes a struggle because I see the potential but they are unaware of their capabilities because no one is showing them or allowing them to explore. I have been trying to find school for some of the consumers that will have the curriculum they need and it heartbreaking to find out that there are schools out there that provided the services but to many obstacle in the way here are a few that I have been coming across lately “Oh yes we have that service available but not this year all seats are taken, Oh sorry not for that child age, Oh sorry your child does not have enough credits� and the list goes on and on. You try and try but nothing seem to work out right. I really would appreciate it if you could assist me with finding a school w! ithin the Brooklyn area or the NY region for these children. They may have a disability but they also need to have the opportunity of getting a General Education to empower themselves. If we don’t help the youth of today what will we have tomorrow. Thank you in advance. "
"I have a son with learning disabilities, he has been diagnosed with ADHD and his learning disability is language based. Your website is great but I cannot find a way to be linked to highly rated schools for kids on IEP. My company is relocating to the Lowell, MA area so I am already moving I am looking for a school within a 20 mile radious that would be a great fit for my son. His special ed teachers rave that he is a sponge and has great abilities for learning and given enough time and resouces he would be able to work within the regular curiculm, problem is noone has the time or resouces to put him there. Help me find the right middle school for him. Thank you"
"Hi I have a very intelligent 6yr old, she is currently in grade 2 and has been accepted in the city's gifted and talented program, she has also been honored by John Hopkins Center for Talented youths. A public school in our district has been chosen by the city for our child, but unfortunately it is not a place where we want our daughter to be, we live about 2mins from this school and we see and hear what goes on there. We are having a hard time finding a school that will accept our child outside of our district 16. We will appreciate your help in finding a good Public or Charter school in a great neighbourhood. Thankyou in advance"
"My daughter turns six in October.We are living in Denver school district. She is bright girl and has amazing memory. She is quick learner. I want her to have an agressive study environment. Please suggest which elementary she shall go. thanks!"
"My grandson will be moving from a small university town to Los Angeles. He loves his Kindergarten class and school. There is a lot personal attention given to each child. He is smart, a fast learner but somewhat shy, I am worried about his move to Mar Vista School to attend 1st grade in the fall 09. I am concerned about the hard nose-top/down traditional programs. Sounds like a prison from the description I read, My grandson is a bright boy, but a cold discipline approach without any concern for the child scares me. He loves school now, but will he grow to hate school, if he attends Mar Vista? Please clue me in to the first grade teachers there! I need help. Grandma "
"As a mother of twins, one who is deaf - I am frustrated with the challenge of finding a school for both girls. Most schools tout diversity yet do not wish to meet the challenges therein. Certainly there is a school available to us that is caring, nurturing, patient and willing to see each individual child's learning potential and strive for their best. As my quest continues, it is daunting and enlightening how many schools claim to be accepting of disabilities though are truly close minded and sadly unaccepting of all. My daughter wears a cochlear implant and has that as her only disability and has done tremendously well from her three years attending the Center for Hearing and Speech. She is bright and eager to learn and certainly there is a place out there for her and her hearing twin, I just have to find it. Should you have any suggestions, I welcome your thoughts!"
"I am a parent of a 5-year old boy. He will start kindergarten in September. I would say the most important factors for his new school would be a diverse program. A school that challenges the students with homework and projects. The school offers band or insturment teaching as an extra curriculm activity. I would also like continuos assesments of students abilities and chances for him to grow move into a more challenging setting either gifted or magnet program if his performance allows for it. I am an active parent and my invovement is a must."