After finding housing for your family as part of the move, when you have school age children, finding a school is the next step. It is not an easy task choosing a school. Sometimes you don’t have a choice if you have limited housing choices. However, sometimes you can “choice into” another school that is not in the district your house is assigned to. It is called a different program in each state (of course), but ask around in your new neighborhood. So how do you choose a school that is right for you and your family?
Where to Not to Look for Information
We all do it. When looking for a home we scroll to the bottom of the real estate facts which list the schools, with grades. We look for the higher rated schools thinking that really equals quality of school. That is not the case. Do not just look at the ratings assigned by the big grading companies.
Where to Look for Information
The most objective facts about schools can be found on the states Department of Education website. Each school should have a “report card” for the school on their department of education website. The report card should provide detailed information on assessments, enrollment, the finances of the school, statistics like free and reduced lunch participation and socioeconomic categories, teacher assessments and school readiness milestones. This objective information can provide an assessment about the school without “grading.” This helps you make the decision that is best for your family with the reality of school.
Know the MIC3
The MIC3 is the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission, which was designed to help ease transitions for military families moving from one school to another. The idea is that if your child is in the gifted program or has an IEP at one school, those placements are still in place in the next school. This helps ease moving schools are there is some similarity and familiarity, without having to do the testing or re-evaluation again at the new school. This doesn’t mean that every school knows about the MIC3, or is even aware of it. Like with all regulations, even within the military community, print off the parts that apply to you and bring it into the school. For high school in particular, when schools may not teach things in the same order, make sure to have the course description for each course they took. This helps with placing into the next school. For instance, if you move your child’s sophomore year and in the new school they took History of America but it was called something else at the previous school, the course description allows the new school to know what to provide credit for and place them in the next appropriate history subject.
There are Other Options
For those who can afford it, private school is also an option. Private schools are not assigned a district, so you do not have to live in a certain area of this. Private schools do not report to the state government since they do not take funding from the state, so they do not have a readily available report card like public schools on the Department of Education website. Reach out to the private school for specific information.
Homeschool is a popular option with military families as it allows for non-traditional school schedules. Want to do school through the summer because the active duty member will get a month off in the fall and you want to schedule a trip, then homeschool might be for you. Each state is different on guidelines for homeschool. California for instance requires that you register as a private school providing a private school affidavit. Virginia requires sending a Notice of Intent to the school your children you are districted for letting them know you are homeschooling. Each state has different timelines for this as well, so make sure to research when the dates are required.
There is not one answer for schools for every family. Know the objective information you need to know for your family. Before looking, make a list of what you need and are looking for. Do you need a gifted program? A certain sport? Know what you are looking for when researching schools. Not that you need another thing on your to-do list, don’t be afraid to call and “interview” schools with questions. Their response and openness (or lack thereof) in discussing can help you.