This week, we take a look at the most famous of real estate questions – are the schools good? We hear this one all the time, whether the buyers have school aged children or not. People want to know about their future and the schools in the area can play a big part in that, whether they intend to have children or are just thinking about resale value down the line. Whether schools are good or not can be rather subjective and it’s rarely a yes or no answer when asked. In order to provide some insight, we asked agent Carrie Fischel, herself a former teacher, what she learned from talking to parents over the years.
Are the Schools Good in This Area?
Are the schools in this area good? This is a question Realtors hear often…and it is a loaded question. Choosing the right school for your child is one of the biggest and most important decisions you can make as a parent. Every parent wants the best for their child and it is no different when it comes to schools. How do you know which school to choose? Not all schools are created equal and with so many choices to choose from today it can be very overwhelming. As a Realtor and former teacher, I’m going to try to help you determine which school is best for your child by simply sharing several attributes that great schools have in common. With the new grading system being given to schools in Texas, I really encourage you to place more emphasis on these aspects, as they will be a much better indicator of how the schools measure up and assist you in determining “are the schools good?”
One of the first things you will notice about a school, and arguably one of the most important, is the school culture. Why so much emphasis on culture? There is a direct correlation between a student’s relationship and feelings towards their teacher/school and the student’s achievement. School culture can be very apparent as you walk through the hallways. Some things to consider and take notice of while walking through the hallways…
- Does the school have an inviting appearance? (I’m talking about whether or not it is welcoming, not the actual architecture.)
- Are the walls in the school covered with student’s work?
- How does the office staff treat its guests?
- How are the teachers communicating with the students and other teachers?
- Can the principal be found walking the hallways and engaging with teachers and students?
- Does the school have a lot of parental and community involvement?
- What type of activities and opportunities do parents have to be involved in with their student’s learning?
- Do you see a mission statement for the school? Do they have a school wide program that they implement such as the 7 Habits of Happy Kids or are other positive goal-setting models displayed?
- Does the school have a school wide discipline system that they implement?
Let’s look at the last two bullet points a little closer. Although they may or may not be as noticeable in the hallways, those items definitely deserve a lot of emphasis. It’s important that the school has the universal belief that all students can learn. Of course learning will look differently for everyone and everyone doesn’t learn in the same way, but it’s utmost important that they believe every student can and will learn.
It is also of major importance that students feel safe and secure and know the campus expectations for behavior. When students know what behavior is expected of them there is little grey area allowing students and teachers to give more focus towards learning, rather than addressing behavior issues. School behavior also includes the dreaded “B” word – bully. Students and parents should feel safe and confident knowing that their school has a zero tolerance towards bullying, violence, drugs, alcohol, etc.
If you’re not able to visit a school personally, you can gather as much information from the school’s website as well as their PTA’s website. You can also join the different local Facebook groups to reach out to that particular community.
High standards and expectations are another important aspect of great schools. I know what you’re thinking…yeah, that all sounds great, but what does that look like? Teachers should set clear objectives and goals for their students. Zig Ziglar said, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” If teachers want students to meet their goals and expectations, then they need to be well defined so the students know where they’re aiming. Look in the classroom to see if the teacher has their rules, assignments, projects, and newsletter displayed or readily available. If you’re searching online, check out the school’s webpage and click on the different teachers’ pages to see what they have available. Also, check to see how students are expected to complete their work? Do they complete independent work consisting of worksheets and bookwork all the time or are students encouraged to use technology and complete project based assignments as well? Since high expectations will look different for each student, it is also important to note if the teacher uses group teaching in different subject areas, particularly reading and math, to ensure that they’re meeting the students at their current level and pushing them towards their goal.
Communication is Key to Good Schools
Another important attribute of a great school is how well they communicate…
- How often does the teacher or school communicate with the parents?
- Do they have a weekly or monthly newsletter?
- Do the teachers email or call parents if they’re concerned?
- Do they have frequent conferences offered?
- How high is the parent and community involvement in that school?
If you’re searching schools online, you can easily access the different schools’ websites. Most websites list the teachers for each grade and have a link to their personal webpages as well. On the webpage you can usually see whether or not they have a newsletter, how often the newsletter goes home, and if they send out a weekly email,update, etc. When you visit the school’s page you can also check to see if they have a link to a Facebook page or school PTA page – all of these will have ample sources of information.
Whether it’s public, private, or charter, these are all ingredients that make up a “good” school. Although the decision can seem very overwhelming, do your research and know that wherever your child attends school, it’s about the relationships that are created between school and home that foster a great environment for your child to learn.
image courtesy of amitp