I have a lot of friends who are trying to choose between one day school over another or decide between day school, public school, or another private school and are having trouble deciding where to send their child. I began to think about the kinds of things I want for my children in their education and thought I would share.
I believe very strongly that I want my children to be challenged as much as possible. I obviously do not want them to be set up for failure, but I want them to be pushed to expand their capabilities. If they can't handle a dual curriculum, then I want to know the school will be able to assist them in the right services to allow them to succeed.
I have seen with both of my children who are hyper verbal that a great teacher can make a world of difference in helping them to succeed and not be bored. I have also seen how easy it is to be bored. I want my children to love learning and be excited more often then not with what they are learning in school.
I want them to be exposed to 21st century learning because it makes sense and there is a purpose in integrating it into the curriculum and not because it's the new flashy term of education. I also believe that they need a strong foundation in writing and reading because it's a part of everything. I also believe that math, science, and technology need to be strong.
Having thought about all things I want in education, I put together a list of questions that I thought would be good starting questions with the school you are trying to decide about. Note that some of these are specific to a Jewish school:
What is your handwriting program?
What reading program are you using?
What is your science program like?
Besides smart boards, how is technology integrated into the curriculum in each grade?
What kinds of project-based learning occurs in the elementary school?
What kinds of blended-learning opportunities are there and for what ages?
What kinds of real world skills are offered to a student?
At the end of 5th grade, what skills does a Schechter student have?
What is the estimated class size for each grade?
What is the maximum class size?
What kinds of music does a student learn throughout elementary school?
How much time does the average student spend on homework?
Do you teach about evolution?
What subjects are done entirely in Hebrew for each grade?
What are the Hebrew language programs?
What is Tefillah like in the Elementary school?
How do you deal with theology questions like Does God exist? Or who wrote the Bible?
What kinds of enrichment programs do you offer?
Are there any extended day programs or early drop-off?
Are there any sports offered in the elementary school and if so, what grade do they begin in?
Any differences based upon gender?
How do you deal with same sex parents, is the school inclusive?
What kinds of opportunities does the school offer for families from different areas to interact with one another?
How does the school handle birthday parties held on Shabbat or that have non-kosher food?