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10 key questions for elementary schools

Choosing an elementary school? Don't do it without getting the answers to these questions!

By GreatSchools Staff

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Teacher with students

2) What's the student-teacher ratio?

When assessing a school, it's important for parents to consider how much individual attention their child will receive. This means finding out how big the classes are and whether the class has a teaching aid or other parent volunteers. For grades K through third, a student teacher ratio over 22:1 is large. For fourth grade and up, anything above thirty, without a full-time aid, is a lot for a teacher to handle. (Keep in mind that while research has confirmed the benefits of small classes in grades three and lower, there's no empirical proof that large class sizes in upper grades compromise how well children learn.)

Take student-teacher ratios with a grain of salt. Why? Because many schools count staff (such as librarians) as teachers, thereby driving down the student teacher ratios, while the classes can still be extremely crowded and teachers overloaded. For instance, if you hear that the student-teacher ratio is 15:1, then see that there's one teacher in a class of thirty five students, it's worth asking about the disparity.

Also, ask about what kind of tutoring services or learning specialists the school offers. Do they offer "pull-out" tutoring in small groups, in which a student gets special instruction during school hours. Do the teachers or other staff offer after-school or lunch-time tutoring?

Comments from readers

"Based on the first review, I'm assuming Great Schools edited the article as it does mention exactly what the first poster claims it doesn't? I think this is a very good article, but it's probably best for those people that are looking at buying a house in a good school district that they can tour or for parents looking at private schools. "
"Omg...this was very good peace for me. Im looking for a school for my son. Much needed information. Thanks so much... "
"This article makes it seem like one can choose the school, however we are obligated to send our child to the school that is in our district. We are 10 miles away from the school in our district, but only 3 miles away from the school we would rather have our child go to."
"The schools are changing so much and many times during the school year. Its very hard to know that programs will continue due to budget cuts. Attending a school site council meeting will let get a peek at the how they handle the issues facing them and what is their priority. Also attend a school district meeting, see who's running the schools. "
"Pretty lame article. No mention of asking questions about the type of reading program they use, how they differentiate instruction for reading and math (if your child is advancing more rapidly than other children, will they allow her or him to go ahead, or vice-versa). "