Where is the cat? Have you seen the blue mug? For goodness sake, where is your brother?!!?!
PCSing is a super stressful time. Just making sure all of your children and pets arrive in one piece is a lot of work. Add in your actual stuff, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Now, on top of all of that, you need to find great schools for your children.
There are not enough hours in the day for all of this!
3 Steps to Finding a Great School Post-PCS
Three steps? Really?
Truly, finding a great school isn’t about spending hours researching or comparing. It is about using your resources wisely to maximize your time.
Step 1: Ultimate School Success Kit
This step is done for you. All you need to do is download The Ultimate School Success Kit. It’s the everything guide to making all things K-12 school so much easier!
Here’s what’s inside:
- 25 easy lunch, snack & breakfast ideas + meal planner
- Emails to send the teacher about homework struggles
- 6 Simple Steps to Homework Success fridge guide
- Grade Check Worksheet for Parents
When you use this guide you’ll:
- Be able to quickly pack your child’s lunch box so you have more time
- Explain your homework struggles to the teacher more quickly and effectively
- Get a handle on homework so that it’s easier and less stressful for you and your child
- Figure out what your child’s grades mean beyond what you see on the report card + track progress over time
Get your Ultimate School Success Kit right now.
Step 2: What Does a Great School Look Like?
What makes a school “great” is super subjective and highly personal.
For some, it’s the location – proximity to the duty station, a cool park, walkability to transit, or property size. Maybe it’s programs unique to the school – bilingual education, IB programming, AP courses, partnerships with area colleges or businesses, ROTC opportunities, athletics, or fine arts programs. “Greatness” also could be purely based on test scores – the percentage of kids who are passing the state or end of course exams annually, graduation rates, or college acceptance rates.
Again, this is the part that is up to you. What is MOST important to your family, right now? I’ll use my family as an example. During our last move with school-aged kids, we wanted:
- walkable neighborhood with locally owned shops, restaurants
- neighborhood parks
We ended up choosing a K-5 school that offered:
- fully bilingual education
- strong community connections
- active PTA
- lots of clubs
- incredibly diverse student population
This school was also:
- poorly rated
- largest in the district
- not Title I
Lots of people might see the “bad” – that poor rating on the school ranking websites, for one – and dismiss the school entirely. However, it’s important to consider what you don’t see in the ranking descriptions.
For example, lots of schools with lower rankings are diverse, with students speaking many different languages and coming from a multitude of cultural backgrounds. They might also be economically stratified, meaning some students are wealthy, others are solidly middle class, and yet more are at or under the poverty line. There might also be a higher percentage of students with disabilities or who struggle academically.
Those demographic realities can lead to lower test scores, which then decreases the ranking.
However, it doesn’t mean the school is inherently “poor” or not “great.” It does mean that if your ideal house situation is zoned for a school with less than stellar test scores, you should dig a little deeper!
Step 3: What Does Your Child Need?
Start by making a list of what your child needs in school. Include everything that is particular to them:
- gifted and talented
- special education
- music, drama, or art programs
- extracurriculars or clubs
- specific instruction styles (bilingual, IB, AP, dual enrollment, etc.)
Then, as you are considering where to live and looking into what schools are zoned for each house, compare this list of must-haves with what the school offers. You should be able to find this information by checking the school’s website.
If you have a school that checks almost all the boxes, check the community to see if there are local opportunities to supplement those programs. For example: the school doesn’t have a strong soccer team, but the city offers a great competitive club program. That school might still be a great fit for your child since you can supplement. However, if the school lacks core educational components your child needs, like a strong gifted program, it might be better to look elsewhere.
Or, if your child is like mine (typically developing in every way) they might be just fine in almost any school setting. In this case, you could let other factors drive your house and school hunt. You’d likely consider:
- commute distance to work
- neighborhood feel
- community amenities
- intangible factors like walkability, house design, neighborhood design, etc.