What do you look for in a school system


My husband and I are looking to relocate and want to a public school district that our son can stay in K-12.  Wondering what advice parents have for what they look for in a public school system? What are the top 5 things that make the biggest impact? Is is diverse student body? Is it offering specialized programs? Is it a focus on college readiness? It will really help me to be objective when elevating different districts. 

thank you! 

Parent Replies

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Hi. Here were my top considerations when choosing schools (in El Cerrito):

1. Location: I wanted a schools that were walking distance or short AC transit ride to our house. This saves time for pick ups and drop offs and gives you and your child a great sense of community and friends close by. For middle and high school having the school close by is very important for the child gaining independence and it is great when they invite their friends to your house after school because then you know where they are. Also, I taught them how to prep dinner so there would be less for me to do when I got home.

2. Neighborhood safety: I wanted to feel safe from crime, litter, and traffic when walking around the school. I also wanted this so my child would feel safe when they were older and walking around without me.

3. On-site daycare: This was a deal-breaker for me. I transferred my kindergarten child between two academically equal schools because one had on-site daycare and the other didn't.

Those were actually my only considerations. We lived in a class- and ethnicity- diverse neighborhood, so the neighborhood schools reflected this. Regarding academics and college readiness, I trusted the State Standards that apply to all public schools would be sufficient (they were). Regarding extras, I didn't consider this at all, figuring that I could add classes on weekends if the school offerings weren't sufficient. Although the school had art, drama, music, sports, dance, etc, my child chose to do more outside of school.

I would really want a several things from schools. One, a good program to deal with bullies. Bullies have become an even bigger problem with social media. And bullying can lead to suicide, so I think this is especially important. Two, I like schools with green spaces that the kids can spend some time in every day. It is healthy to work and play outdoors. Then for high school, how do the teenagers find their tribe? Are there comfortable and welcoming spaces for intellectuals, jocks. actors and so on? 

To be honest, really honest, the factors we looked at and the factors we actually were motivated by were not the same. When it came down to it, we chose proximity and conformity. Proximity equaled schools close enough that the kids could walk to classes. Conformity equaled schools where academic standards (ie test scores) are high and kids overwhelmingly are going to college. As much as we liked neighborhoods in Oakland we could never pull the trigger on buying a house in Oakland.