Questions to Ask When You Visit a School

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Once you've narrowed down your possible choices, the next step in the process of choosing a school is visiting the schools you are more interested in. Using the information in our profiles and events page, contact the school(s) to schedule a visit and/or attend an open house. While work schedules can make it hard to find time for visits, there's no better way to know if a school is right for your student.

It's important to visit during school hours so you can observe classrooms and speak to the principal. You want to see an atmosphere that is welcoming and adults who not only care about the students, but who also clearly expect students to achieve at high levels. Download our school worksheet (see below) to help you take notes during your visit.

The following list of questions can help you navigate all the things you will see and hear while visiting a school.

Questions for the Principal and/or Teachers
  • For elementary schools: What percentage of your students read on grade level by third grade?
  • For all schools: What percentage of your students read on grade level overall?
  • What percentage of your students do math on grade level?
  • What academic expectations do you have for your students?
  • What do you believe leads to student achievement? (Watch out for school administrators or teachers who make excuses for low achievement based on such factors as race, income or gender.)
  • How many safety incidents did your school have last year? (Ask for examples.)
  • How do you handle student misbehavior? How will I know if there has been a problem with my child or teen?
  • How do you assess learning and track progress?
  • What will you do if my child or teen falls behind or struggles in class? Will you contact me?
  • Are you responsible for the quality and development of your teachers?
  • How do you evaluate your teachers and hold them responsible for student learning?
  • For elementary/middle schools: Where do your students go when they leave your school? When they finish eighth grade, do they attend high-quality high schools?
  • For high schools: What do your students do after graduation? What percentage of them attend college?
 
When You Walk the Halls
  • How do students behave as they move from class to class or play outside?
  • Are hallways clean and well-kept? What about the bathrooms?
  • Does recent student work appear on walls or bulletin boards?
 
When You Visit Classrooms
  • Watch for student engagement. Are all students paying attention to the teacher or participating in a learning activity?
  • Do students seem interested in what they are doing, or do their minds appear to be somewhere else?
  • Are there examples of student work and progress on display?
  • Is the classroom clean and orderly?
  • Is the teacher pleased to see you?
 
More Information

Looking for more information on finding a great school? See all articles here.