Choosing the Right School for Your Child Part 5: Talk to People in the School Community

Education and access to knowledge hold a sacred place for Black Americans. From the time when it was inaccessible to us, the risks that we took to acquire it, and the opportunities that have arisen for us from its acquisition, we have always valued learning and education.

Our demographic – the Black members of generations X and Y – have become the caretakers of that tradition. Now in our prime parenting years, we are faced with difficult choices as we consider the scholastic portion of our children’s education.

This series of articles chronicles five aspects to consider as you choose the right school for your child. There is no one strategy that will help you to find that “best fit”, but these basic guidelines will be beneficial to you on your search.

5. Talk to other parents/guardians about the prospective schools.

Some schools will provide you with contact information for other families who have children in the school. If you have children of color, the school may even direct you toward other families with children of color so that you may ask them about their experiences. You may have a visceral reaction to it but trust me; it really is a good sign that they are interested in getting your child into the school, as well as welcoming you as a family into theirs. As a matter of fact, if the school doesn’t offer this information to you, request it from them. And when you talk to parents, be sure to do so outside of the school environment. If they don’t have a particular place in mind, suggest dinner at a local restaurant. They will be more apt to let you know the “real scoop” about how the school operates, including the political hierarchy, the social and academic environment, and even some of their negative experiences at the school. Of course, a school will not wittingly put you in contact with people who will disparage the school as a whole, but do expect and even politely demand a genuine conversation about the school.

So while this series is not a comprehensive guide, it can and should be an important starting point as you consider school options. I would suggest that you do the same due diligence for the public schools as well as the independent ones in your area, even if you don’t have a school-choice option. My parents actually decided to move to a new neighborhood before I began high school, basically so that I could get a better secondary education. The small neighborhood high school where I grew up was providing an inferior education and a drastically different learning environment compared to the school located directly on the University of Michigan’s campus that I ended up attending.

Hopefully there are parents, educators, and others who have experience with choosing a school, and are willing to share it in the comments section. Do I consider myself an expert? Of course! But being an expert also means that I encourage and solicit the wisdom of others in my area of expertise.

Find the right school and then make it so!

Check back in to for my next article entitled, “Teaching the African American Child: A College Course?!”

Part 1 · Part 2 · Part 3 · Part 4 · Part 5

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