In North-Central Indiana, we are fortunate to have a rich selection of charter schools, public schools, religious schools, parochial schools, and private independent schools. As a parent, you recognize the importance of selecting the right school, especially when choosing where your child will spend his or her formative early years. But, no two schools are identical and not every school is right for every student.
So, how do you choose? As the Director of Enrollment at The Stanley Clark School, I always recommend prospective parents consider these three key questions when discerning the best fit for each child.
Question 1: What is the school’s mission and core values?
In today’s digital world, a school should outline its mission and core values prominently online. For example, The Stanley Clark School website explains our mission is to inspire and challenge students in academics, athletics, the arts, and character development. The school also clearly describes its core values to prepare students for higher education by developing personal responsibility for study skills, critical thinking, and life-long learning while promoting empathy, mutual respect, and service to others.
As you dive into your research, consider these points. How do the school’s mission and core values line up with what you would like the school to provide for your child during the 35-hour school week? Will the opportunities you wish to afford for your child be offered during the school day, or will there be a need for additional after-school activities?
After exploring a school’s online presence, take your inquiry to the next level by scheduling a campus tour. Observe those you encounter while on the tour – students, faculty, staff, and parents. Does what you see match the school’s online presence?
Finally, all schools have strengths and opportunities for improvement, so ask about each school’s five-year strategic plan. What has the school community self-identified as opportunities for the immediate future, and what progress has the school made?
Question 2: How does the school measure and communicate student growth?
We live in a data-driven society, and schools at every level should provide parents with data relevant to understanding their children’s educational development. For each school you explore, learn how the school measures their own success in delivering a quality education and how this impacts the classroom experience.
Ask about faculty retention and professional development. How are highly qualified faculty and staff retained to deliver on the school’s mission and core values?
Inquire about accreditation and funding. How does the school keep its doors open?
Ask about communication between the school and families – progress reports, routine conferences, and report cards. Does the school welcome two-way communication and, if so, by what means?
At The Stanley Clark School, rigorous accreditation is held through the Independent Schools Association of Central States, and funding is achieved through what is collected in tuition and philanthropic support. We conduct standardized testing as a routine data point, and freedom from receiving tax dollars allows the school to choose which standardized test is most suitable for its student body.
The Early Childhood Division (Preschool through Kindergarten) and the Lower School (Grades 1-4) focus on a positive trajectory toward skill mastery, while Middle School (Grades 5-8) students earn letter grades and a grade point average. Twice each academic year, teachers prepare formal progress reports and offer parent-teacher conferences with each member of the faculty who participates in the child’s education.
Question 3: How does an education from this particular school prepare a student for the next endeavor?
Work backward. Consider the demands of a high-school education, and then identify both the essential soft skills and robust knowledge base that will help your child to succeed at the next level.
What sort of study skills are taught? What type of projects do students complete in preparation for high school work? Do students learn how to take responsibility not only for their academic success but for their actions and behavior?
Throughout its 60-year history, Stanley Clark students graduate with the poise and confidence to thrive in whatever high school setting they choose. They are equipped with the study and time-management skills necessary to thrive academically while maintaining a social and emotional balance. Students work on multifaceted, long-term projects that help them develop planning skills while digging deep into various topics. Our alumni often say that the work they did here at Stanley Clark, helped them feel more than prepared for high school.
Trust Your Instinct
While selecting the right school can feel a bit overwhelming at first, the key is to simply break it down and consider what’s most important to your family. Ask questions, do your research, and then trust your instincts to tell you which school will be the best fit for your child.
“The goal of education is not to increase the amount of knowledge but to create the possibilities for a child to invent and discover, to create men who are capable of doing new things.” – Swiss Psychologist, Jean Piaget
About the Author
Director of Enrollment and Community Relations