skip to main content
9 Key Questions to Ask When Choosing an Elementary School, Part 1

9 Key Questions to Ask When Choosing an Elementary School, Part 1

February 06, 2019

Choosing an elementary school is one of the most important decisions you make for your child.

Every facility will present its environment and qualities in a positive light. This means you need to ask some questions and do some digging. These are key questions that will bring light to important elements of what a school can provide.

These are the first five of nine key questions to ask when looking for an elementary school.


You have specific needs for your child and for your own relationship to the school as a parent, and you have every right to make sure these needs will be met. Always feel free to ask these kinds of questions.

1. Do you know the student-teacher ratio?

A school can have excellent facilities, a good location, and many other good qualities. Yet if the student-teacher ratio for grades K-3 is more than 20:1, your child won't necessarily get the individual attention that they need. If it's more than 30:1 for fourth grade and higher, problems your child may encounter might be overlooked.

Not every student-teacher ratio means the same thing. Some schools start with ratios like these and then break down into smaller tutoring groups, while others have lower ratios that include librarians and other staff who aren't actually in the classroom. Make sure you know the context for the ratio you're provided.

2. Does the school fit your needs?

It's crucial that a school be able to fit your child's needs, but don't forget about yourself. If the school doesn't provide bussing, will you be able to drive your child to school every day without interfering with your job? If you have to be at work early some days, does the school provide early-morning care? What about after-school care for days when you get out of work late?

A school that can remove sources of stress from your life and allow you to have a more flexible schedule means you're more likely to be able to develop a productive relationship with that school.

3. Are behavioral issues handled well?

Nearly every student will encounter a behavioral issue at some point. It's important that these are handled well. A student needs to understand why what they've done is a problem, and how to correct it. They also need to understand what the consequences are, and why they're shaped that way. More than this, they need positive reinforcement for when they correct the problem and for what they do well in other areas.

Disciplinary policy won't always be exactly what you would do in the same situation, but it should be something that you're comfortable with.

4. How is bullying handled?

This may seem like a component of the last question, but it really needs its own focus. Many studies show that bullying contributes more than any other factor to students dropping out and not completing education later in life.

Schools should have specific bullying policies. Preferably, they should have teachers and other staff with anti-bullying training. Bullies themselves need to be provided with alternate ways of dealing with the rigors of school, while bullied children need to be able to escape the cycle in a way that's healthy and not socially damaging among their peers.

5. How are children with different learning needs supported?

Not all children learn the same, nor should they be expected to. It's a delicate balance to teach a group of students all at once, and to ensure individual students are getting appropriate attention. This is part of why the student-teacher ratio question is so important. Beyond this, you'll need to know if students who excel are provided extra challenges. Are students with learning disabilities provided the attention that enables them to achieve appropriate objectives?

Your child may have particular needs, or may simply hit a subject where they excel or struggle. Often a student may shine in one area and struggle in another, and this means they need different kinds of attention in each. You know what your child may need in terms of this attention, so ask about differentiation of approach and instruction.


24 Questions to help evaluate a school