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My dd isn't school aged yet, but I did teach in Catholic schools so I can provide a little insight if you odn't mind.

The reason I would choose a school is parent involvement. Meaning are parents allowed the oppt. to visit and be involved in the education. My last school there was a group of moms who taught some art apprectiation classes. Also, my co-teacher and I would invite parents to do reading circles w/ our students. They would the same book as our students and then come and "teach" small groups at a time. It freed me to move around and see everyone's thoughts and gave the parents some time w/ their children and many enjoyed discussing novels w/ their kids.

Do they support the teachers!? Meaning does the admin. and PTA do some special things for them. Catholic educators make ~$10K less in the Chicago area depending on what public district you compare them to. It was so nice at my last so to actually get a reimbursment of $250 for school stuff from the PTA. And that year the school Admin asked for Christmas donation to be spilt among us teachers in lieu of presents. We got $700 cash for Christmas which was a nice surprise
Not that teachers don't like gifts; it's just that you can only have so many pads of paper and coffee cups.

Is there a library? For me that is important! I love to read and want my children to have a place in their school where reading can be enjoyed and they can check out books. If there is one, is there a resident librarian? That makes a big difference too b/c if it's just parent volunteers, you can bet they don't put much into the library. At my last school, the library rocked compared to my previous school that got maybe 15 new books a year. And the reference section was poor so students really couldn't research. Also a resident librarian is trained in helping students w/ finding research answers and the books they want to read.

As for computers...well, I do want some computers. Today many kids get access at home, but I think a lab where they get typing instruction, software applications (word/power point/excel..etc) are important esp. in the middle grades. Also in the library it will gives the students access to research on line (another reason for a resident librarian who has cert. and training in research on line). My school started doing web based chats too which the students really liked that were centered around all the subjects.

I'd also like to know the schools approach on special needs. For instance, how do they handle and accomodate ADD kids? Are aids avail. for reading groups? Are upper grades homogenous groups or hetero. groups in math/reading? IMO, in math it's difficult for hetero. groups. In LA/reading they should be homogenous b/c you can then group up students based on different abilities.

Does the school offer multiple intelligence? How are teachers required to use them in their planning?

What about whole units? Do they incorporate all the subjects into at least 3 units a year? It's really neat for kids to see how all the subjects can meet each other.

How is the turnover? At my first school, 10 teachers left the year before I was hired. The second year, ~10 left again...along w/ me. The entire JR high teacher (but 2 left). One stayed b/c she's retiring in 5 years and another well, he had no motivation. The reason I mention this is b/c the teachers leaving says a lot about the school admin. My principal was horrible. He never supported us and never communicated anything that was truly important w/ us. Several occasions he would mention something to a parent like accomodations and never never say anything to us about this! Then the parent would get all on us. My next school the average was ~15years. Also many of these teachers had their masters which again says that they care enough to continue their education and still stay underpaid at a Catholic School.

I wouldn't really care about testing scores (you know the standardized) b/c I just don't believe enough in them. So many factors determine the outcome of them.

Do they have a foreing language instruction? For me it's important as I love foreign lang. and when they enter middle school/high school many schools we expect some instruction. It's becoming more and more common for schools to start for. lang. earlier and earlier. The best time is well early! but for a school the best would be 3rd garde. Some probably won't start unitl 5th but I think it's important.

As for why I would send them to Catholic school....
B/c I want them to be free to discuss their Catholic faith and celebrate it openly w/ peers and other adults. Where I was, both public and Catholic offered pretty muc the same educaiton (well my first was much more b/c we all spoke English!)..
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