Measuring school success
Monday October 1, the Lincoln Journal Star published a piece in its Homeroom section (page 4C) that looks at the ten elements of successful schools as identified by the Alliance for Excellent Education. I want my children to attend the very best school available, so I determined to assess her school based on their qualifications.
1. Challenging classes.

Our school uses the Principle Approach materials to guide our curriculum, which has largely been developed by me. Our core vision is to maintain an academically rigorous program of instruction to give each of our children the education they need to maintain liberty. Our program is a little weak in the area of spelling, and I finally abdicated this role to a workbook that my daughter seems to be progressing through well.

2. Personal attention for all students.

Our student-teacher ration is 4 to one. The younger children naturally get a little more focused attention from the teacher, but that is one thing that my daughter does seem to like about her school. The time she spends on direct academic instruction is time she has almost to herself. And it is time that her younger siblings are not allowed to interrupt.

3. Extra help for those who need it.

When one of my children do not understand a concept, we do not move on. Whether it is my two year old learning colors, my four year old learning letter sounds or my eight year old learning her multiplication tables, we take the time we need to reinforce the concept before progressing. Since their school day begins when they wake up and ends when they fall asleep, there are numerous opportunities to sneak in a little practice, even while doing daily chores.

4. Bringing the real world to the classroom.

Or how about the classroom to the real world? My children are a little young , but they are yet to ask, "Why do I need to know this?" That, I hope, is because we tie what we do to life.

5. Family and community involvement.

My children's school has a strong relationship between family (including grandparents), school, faith groups, civic organizations, businesses, etc. It is part of a fully integrated community concerned about all aspects of my children's development.

6. A safe learning environment.

My oldest has a scar from running into a tent stake and my youngest fell out of a Snugli on a field trip, but all in all I would say our school environment is pretty safe. There is some squabbling between a couple of the students, but none of the children have ever worried about their physical safety. I take that back. My four year old is worried that he might get eaten by a mountain lion or a shark, but I have determined that both scenarios are highly unlikely at his particular school.

7. Skilled teachers.

I happen to have a degree in education, have two years experience in the public schools and was at one time certified. My qualifications do not rest on these credentials, however. The parent-child bond is an amazing thing. Where I am weak, I have incredible incentive to learn...or find someone who is more capable than I to take over in that area.

8. Strong leaders.

My children's school does not have a large staff to worry about and communication is pretty good. Everyone on staff knows where every child is and how they are progressing. Finances are in order, and there is a strong vision of academic excellence. I inform myself immediately of any problems or areas of concern and work with everyone necessary to correct the situation.

9. Necessary resources.

We have a library card and the internet. Not to mention our growing personal library. We have all the lab equipment any elementary student could need and are beginning to save for a few pricier pieces of equipment. Lincoln has a nice program for older students homeschooled in the sciences we may look into when the time comes.

10. User-friendly information.

I am yet to send myself a newsletter that does not make sense, and have done a pretty good job of keeping myself informed of where my children are at in regards to the standards laid out for them. I know the graduation requirements, but the school is a little too new to accurately judge drop out statistics. I cannot provide myself with accurate information for student performance on state tests, but I do know that my four year old uses the word "famished" correctly.
My children's school seems to be doing pretty well on each of these elements, so I think I will keep them there for another year at least. How is your school measuring up?

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