Posted May. 3, 2019

10 Things to Look for In a High School

10 Things to Look for In a High School

Whether your child is just graduating from middle school or is part way through his/her high school  career and needing a change, here a list of what to consider when choosing a high school for your child. In essence, we are looking for a place to help us raise our teenager into an independent, confident, prepared young adult – not an easy task! Given the number of hours a high school student spends in school with their teachers and peers, we want to ensure that the right choice is made. Here are some key things to look for when choosing:

  1. How does the school perform academically? How many provincial scholarships have been awarded to the schools’ students? Where do graduates of this school end up for post-secondary education? Does the school offer the breadth of courses needed for your child to pursue his/her post-secondary goals.  How does the school perform on school ratings? While independent school ratings can be controversial, they do rank the schools based on academic performance in an impartial manner.  School ratings should not be the only basis for an enrollment decision but they do provide good information to include in your criteria.


  1. Does the school meet your child’s individual needs? If your child has special needs, is the programming sufficient? If your child suffers with anxiety, are there specially trained staff members who can provide support and comfort? If your child is exceptionally intelligent, does the teaching staff have the tools available to keep your child challenged?


  1. Does the school employ a mix of new and experienced teachers, with strong qualifications? Veteran teachers offer a different experience for students than newly graduated teachers. Students benefit from both approaches to teaching. Check to see how many of the teachers hold their Masters or other degrees besides their Bachelor of Education.


  1. Does the staff know and care about their students as individuals? Spend some time in the school hallway. How do the teachers interact with the students? Are they friendly towards one another? Are teachers and students laughing together? Do students appear to be comfortable in the presence of the teachers? Ask current parents and/or students about their experiences with the teachers.


  1. Are the values and goals of the school consistent with your own? As the staff and other students are going to be spending a lot of time with your child, you want to ensure that your child will be in an environment with values that reflect what you believe. Is this a school where everyone is welcome? Is there a dress code? How strict is the code of conduct? Is the school  raising awareness of social issues among its students?


  1. Are the class sizes small enough that students get sufficient attention? The lower the teacher to student ratio is in a classroom, the better access your child has to an individual approach to learning, extra support if needed, and a more personal relationship with the teacher. Smaller classes also allow teachers to prepare more creative styles of teaching including more hands-on work and experiments.


  1. What extra-curricular activities are available? There is so much to high school beyond the classes. Extra-curricular activities allow your child to explore their interests and what makes them happy. It’s where they can learn to work in a group or on a team and to develop leadership skills.  If your child is an athlete, does the school offer his/her favourite sports? If your child is a musician, is there a band? Debate club? Student council? How can your child be best engaged in the school?


  1. Does the school take students off-site? Field trips can provide opportunities for students to see where and how all the in-class learning comes together. Will your child have the chance to go to a specialized museum or to an outside exhibit? Will the school seek occasions for the students to see professionals working in fields where specific skills are being used? We know that it is through these outings that students can be inspired to follow certain career paths. If a school is capable and willing to take students on field trips, they are truly invested in your child’s future learning.


  1. Is the school part of a strong community? Are parents involved with the school; committed to fundraising and/or improvement initiatives? Do parents congregate outside the school to talk to one another? Are there posters around the school for different school family events? Do families move from the same elementary schools to this high school, allowing long term, strong friendships to be formed?


  1. What kind of feeling do you get when you visit the school or the social media sites for the school? The choice of school is an emotional decision for your most precious person or people. The school has to feel right. Trust your instincts – you know your child and what they need from a school.