You spent 20 minutes last night posting your impressions of the new pizza place down the street. Have you ever thought of doing the same for your child’s school?
In this age of crowd-sourced evaluation, when we turn to reviews written by regular people to help us choose everything from shoes to electronics to hotels to dermatologists, reviews play a huge role in helping us make decisions. Studies suggest that most people (around 90 percent) read reviews before making a decision about which product to buy, and around 80 percent of us trust online reviews as much as we would a personal recommendation.
Reviews written by other parents can play a big role for parents when they’re trying to figure out whether a particular school is right for their child. Ronnie Hines, a parent in Los Angeles, says GreatSchools reviews were instrumental in helping her choose a middle school for her daughter.
“The parent reviews helped me understand what she would be dealing with in her transition to middle school. I wanted to make sure I identified a school that would be comfortable for her,” she says.
Reviews gave Hines some specifics about what peer-to-peer interactions and parent-to-staff interactions were like at different schools, and also a general sense of how happy she and her daughter might be there.
“What I mostly got out of reading them is parents’ overall level of satisfaction in terms of their child’s experience with the school,” she says. “Reviews are really critical in making a choice.”
When you write a review of your child’s school, you’re offering other parents something that data can’t — your personal experience as a member of that community. So consider taking a moment to write a review of your child’s school. Here are a few guidelines about what’s helpful (and what’s not as helpful) to get you started.
Specific details about the quality of the school. This might be observations about school leadership, facilities, parent involvement, how homework and discipline are handled, and the school’s general climate—how much school leaders focus on social-emotional and character development, and how your child feels about their school.
Something about your perspective. Wherever you’re coming from, you can be sure there are plenty of other parents in the same boat. It helps prospective parents to know if a review is written by someone whose child needed extra support in reading, or had trouble with cliques, or struggles to sit still, or blossomed under the new math program because that might help them visualize their own child at the school. Likewise, if you’ve had three kids go through a school over a period of six years, or if your child just started a few months ago, include that perspective.
Inside intel. If your school does something special that isn’t widely known, a review is a good place to share it. How else will prospective parents know that the dad’s club organized the bike-a-thon that paid for the new playground equipment, or that there’s a Latin/Python/origami club in the library at noon, or that teachers are available in the gym for tutoring after school every day?
Writing a negative review as a substitute for communicating with the school.
If you had an unsatisfactory experience communicating with the school over an issue, that can be helpful for other parents to know. But your first step when there’s a problem should always be to go to your child’s teacher or principal to try to resolve the problem.
Airing old grievances. If the kid in question has graduated from high school and you’re still stinging over the way their elementary school handled an incident, make like Elsa and let it go. Chances are good that a lot has changed since then, and a negative review may unfairly prejudice prospective parents against new school leaders who are making positive change.
Getting too personal. We allow reviews that use names of principals and school leaders in a respectful way, but otherwise naming names can put you in violation of our parent community guidelines and result in your review being removed.