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Choosing a School Checklist for Detroit Families

Use this guide to help you pick the right Detroit school for your child.

Choosing a School Checklist for Detroit Families

Deciding which school in Detroit is best for your child can seem overwhelming. With so many options, it’s tough to narrow your choices and track your pros and cons. Get started with this list of some key considerations for your student – and family.

1. Prioritize.

Think about what’s most important to you in a school – not only the atmosphere but also the day-to-day logistics.

  • What school hours and schedule work for your needs? Check its calendar. Are there many professional development days (where students are off whole or half days)? Do the holiday breaks align with your schedule?
  • Do you need transportation? If it’s not provided, are you OK with public transportation or private options?
  • What type of academics and curriculum best meet your child’s needs?
  • Are there certain activities and/or courses the school must offer?
  • What school priorities, values and/or mission are you looking for?

2. Narrow down your options.

Research the directories, which connect you to school websites, and look at state data. Get opinions from fellow parents, community members and educators.


  • What is the school’s mission or focus?
  • What is the average class size?
  • What is the school’s approach to student discipline?
  • How much time, on average, are students spending on homework?
  • What measures has the school taken to ensure safety?
  • How does the school support students who have academic, behavioral/emotional or social difficulties?
  • If special services are needed, does the school have the specific type of support your child needs (i.e., a social worker, physical therapist, etc.)?
  • What does the school do to help develop students’ character?
  • What activities are offered after school or on weekends? Are they fee-based or free?
  • What types of technology do students have access to in the classroom or library?
  • Does the school offer a nutritionally-balanced breakfast and lunch program?
  • Is supervised before- and after-school care offered?


  • What is the level of experience of the leadership, teachers and staff?
  • Does the school have tutoring programs?
  • How does the school assess students and their development?
  • What evidence is there that the school is effectively teaching students to read?
  • What are staff expectations for kids who are entering for the first year? Is support available to help those coming in behind and/or who are advanced?
  • Are the teachers certified?
  • Are teachers co-teaching or working with paraprofessionals who offer support in the classroom?
  • What is the student-to-teacher ratio?
  • Are parent volunteers welcome in the classroom?
  • What is the school’s retention rate?
  • For high schools, what is the graduation rate?
  • Does the school provide enrichment opportunities for all students? For gifted students or those with special needs?
  • Is it considered “low-performing” by the state education department?


  • What type of curriculum is offered?
  • What courses does the school offer in addition to core subjects?
  • What is the daily schedule?
  • What is the educational philosophy? Does it match your family’s needs?
  • How frequently can kids move around or engage in physical activity?
  • Is the curriculum culturally sensitive?
  • When and how often does school leadership evaluate the curriculum?

3. Visit the schools.

Schedule a tour of in advance and make sure there’s time to talk with the principal. It’s the best way to check if a school will work for your student and family.

  • Is the building clean?
  • Does it feel welcoming?
  • Do things appear to be in good working order?
  • Do you feel comfortable with the security measures in place?
  • Does the location seem safe?
  • How easy is parking?
  • Are classrooms clean, roomy and maintained at a safe temperature?

4. Listen to your instincts.

As you work through the process – no matter how stressful it may feel! – remember: You know your child best. Always ask:

  • Do I see my child feeling comfortable here? Would I be?
  • Does the administration and teachers seem open to input/feedback?
  • Do I have all the information that I need to be comfortable with this choice and, if not, what else do I need?

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