5 Signs You’re in a High Quality School

By Kathleen Visconti

How do you know if a school is high quality when taking a tour? Tours of independent and private schools cover a lot of ground in a relatively short period of time. Here are 5 seemingly small things to note on your next tour that speak volumes about the quality and effectiveness of a school.

1. What is on display in and out of the classrooms? Is student art displayed? Art is a form of communication and drawings, paintings, sculptures and other media all communicate what students are learning. Project-based work such as a model city or photographs of field trips, indicate a school's commitment to authentic and rigorous learning. Taking the time to read student essays or reports on display may also give you insight into the school's philosophy, curriculum, and the level of student engagement with the material.

2. How do students and the teacher interact? The greater the focus is on the student, the better the school. In student-centered classrooms children have opportunities to explore interests, collaborate and build new knowledge and skills, which has been linked to better learning outcomes. This guide for teachers will give you insight into the student-centered classroom and what to look for on a private school tour.

3. How are children greeted when they arrive at school? The daily greeting is a key transition in the school day. How a school greets its students says a lot about its approach to care, consistency and respect. At some schools, for example, students may begin the day with a handshake with an adult, or another gesture that recognizes them as a valued individual within the community.

4. Do current students talk about their school spontaneously and from the heart? When students speak knowledgeably, enthusiastically and articulately about their school, it is a sure sign that the school has implemented the kind of curriculum and programs that engage, motivate and challenge learners.

5. How excited are students to be at school? Do they enter school eager to start the day, or are they entering classrooms slowly or with a sense of dread? Parents sometimes equate a child's love of school with "being too easy" or "not challenging." However,  when students are in an environment where they love to learn, they are better prepared academically, intellectually, socially and emotionally for challenges of high school and beyond.