Once you have used the criteria outlined in How to Evaluate Your Child’s School to rate your local public school, the chances are that you’ll give it a good grade. In 2001, 68 percent of parents gave their public school an A or a B, according to a Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll. When you recognize the strong points in your child’s school, you will probably want to promote them.
“Parents can work with other parent volunteers to help support the school,” says Terry Nagel, of GreatSchools.net. She suggests that some PTAs are extremely active, and have subgroups working strictly on projects like parent education or computer skills. Most teachers will welcome parents into the school as long as they feel that parents want to work in concert with them, and aren’t trying to take over the school.
What to do if your school comes up short
In the case of a specific problem you should always start by talking to your child’s teacher, explains Nagel. “If that fails, then make an appointment with the principal.” After that, the next steps are the superintendent and the school board.
Parents may be shy about speaking up, but Nagel is emphatic that all parents have the right to go in and talk to a principal about an issue that concerns them, whether it’s test scores or the lack of bathroom facilities.
Another approach is to bring up an issue of concern at a PTA meeting. “People are often surprised that other people are thinking the same way they are and then they can act together,” Nagel says.
Ultimately, the most important way to evaluate your local public school may be how you feel about it. It may not be very scientific, but no matter what the local paper says or what the test scores seem to say, if you feel good about a school you, should send your child there. And if you don’t, you should keep looking.
See also Resources: Organizations, Web links and books.
Judy Molland is an education writer and editor.