Every school has its pros and cons and students, especially military kids, thrive in different environments. The key is to find an environment that fits your child’s needs, but how do you do this when you are stationed miles away and you have to research online?
TIPS FOR SEARCHING ONLINE SCHOOL RATINGS
Tip #1 - Research Online School Ratings
Look at test scores, percentages of free/reduced lunch, and demographics.
GreatSchools.org - They rate schools based on a 1 of 10 scale (* Military Town Advisor utilizes GreatSchools’ ratings)
SchoolDigger.com - They rate schools based on a 1 of 5 scale
SchoolQuest.com - Powered by GreatSchools.org. Geared for military families. GreatSchools data without ratings.
Niche.com - Newer website with school ratings and reviews.
Tip #2 - Read Online Reviews
GreatSchools.org, SchoolDigger.com, and Niche.com have reviews, but remember most people don’t leave reviews unless they have a bad experience.
Tip #3 - Word of Mouth
Get on Facebook and ask other military families. Join Facebook groups for your next duty station and get their opinions. (Remember, they will give their opinion for what was best for their family, not necessarily your family.)
Find out where other military families go to school. Most likely, your child will do better with other military kids around them because they can relate with each other about the struggles of moving and meeting new friends.
Tip #4 - Narrow Down your Search
Gather all the above information and narrow down your search.
Tip #5 - Call the School
Ask about their curriculum, ask about the demographics, ask them how many other military students attend the school. Tip: If you have a High schooler, research graduation requirements since they vary from state to state. (Ex. We moved during my son's junior year and the English and Science requirements were completely different! Many times the differences may mean adding extra classes that were not required at the previous school.)
Tip #6 - Call the School Liason Officer
The military has School Liason Officers and they can help answer your questions and give you information about the area’s schools.
Tip #7 - Visit the School in Person
Most branches of the military allow their servicemember and/or family to take “house hunting leave.” The military allows you to take about 10 days off, but they don’t pay for this trip. You will have to pay for your airfare and hotels, but it’s worth the out of pocket expense to see the area, visit schools, and look at houses.
Tip #8 - Have your Old School Communicate with your New School
Have your child’s current or former teacher write a letter about his or her learning styles and behaviors. Send the letter to the new school to help them pick a teacher that fits your child’s needs.
Tip #9 - Copies of your Student's Records
Make sure you have paper copies of your student's recored in hand before you move.
Words from a military spouse about online school ratings
“We tend not to look at any schools that have a rating below a seven in the initial cut. Once we have a short list, I look at the parent reviews, ask friends on Facebook for options and usually schedule a phone call. Once we get to the area, we go for a school visit. Ultimately, I spend a lot of time focusing on the teacher. You can be in the very best school, but if you have a bad teacher, it doesn't matter a bit. We always have the current teacher write a letter detailing our children's learning habits and then have them send it to the school. I have had two principles comment that they wish more military families would do that because it makes it easier for the school to match the child up with the best teacher fit possible. “