By Dr. Scott Andersen
Windward Child Development Center Alpharetta, GA
I have had many parents ask me about how to pick a school and how to know which schools are good and which schools are not. In fact, there are numerous resources available, such as checklist guides, rating systems and word of mouth. These resources can be helpful, but they all have the same flaw – they rely on someone else, or something else to help you make a decision.
I prefer to counsel parents to use those resources, but to then rely upon their own senses: sight, sound, smell, hearing and touch to drive their final decision. Of course, this requires the parents to take an active role by making visits to prospective schools, talking with the school personnel, and visiting active classrooms in session.
Then I tell parents that the purpose of visiting schools in person and using their senses is so that they can see whether or not there is any evidence that learning is taking place. After all, the main purpose of attending school is to learn.
Evidence of learning can take many shapes. Regardless of its form, this evidence is one of the most important ways that a school can communicate the growth and development of their students to the parents and to the students themselves.
It is important for parents to see in concrete ways the learning that their child is having. It is even more important for the student to reflect upon that learning by the reminder presented through evidence of learning displays in the class and throughout the school. Students learn best when they can make easy connections between their new learning and their past learning. I have witnessed firsthand time and time again when students literally reconnect with their past learning by interacting with the evidence of learning displays in their classroom.
I explain to parents that evidence of learning is not just a bulletin board that shows the completed work of the students. It is a display that shows the process that students went through as part of their learning. The process of engaging students actively is where the real learning takes place.
A good rule of thumb is that if a school does not have any rich evidence of learning for parents and students to see, then you may want to ask about it or think twice before enrolling your child in that school. A true school of learning should look, feel, and sound like a place of learning.
I advise parents to use as much information as possible when they are considering in which school to enroll their children. However, I always tell them to trust their own senses over everything else.