Choosing the right school for your child can be a daunting, pressure-filled task.

Choosing the right school for your child can be a daunting, pressure-filled task. Most parents today realize that not all schools are right for all children, and they are taking advantage of opportunities like open enrollment and school vouchers.

School choices are even more critical during transition periods, for example when your child advances from elementary to middle school and from middle to high school, or when your family moves to a new school district.

It is during these times when parents have more homework to do when deciding where their kids will go to school. Luckily, good resources are available. And many are free. SchoolMatters.com, an online database of public schools, is a website where parents can easily find pertinent school information. Below are the ABCs of what to research when you are trying to choose the right school for your child.

A is for Achievement
The first thing to research is how well students in a school perform. Every state has its own assessment, and scores can be found online.

When looking at school performance, remember to look closely at the numbers. For example, are low-income students performing as well as other students? Are minority students? What about those learning to speak English? The best schools are able to provide all students a great education.

B is for Balance
Because school is about more than learning to read and write, itís important to review elements of a school outside of the classroom. For instance, what extracurricular activities does the school offer? Does your child excel in chess, but the school doesnít offer a club? What if your son or daughter is a star athlete and the school doesnít offer sports, or requires parents to pay for participation?

A good way to find out about a school is reading what other parents have to say about it. At SchoolMatters.com, parents can rate their childís school as well as write in-depth reviews. This resource allows parents new to the community to learn from those who have actually experienced time in the school. And, itís an opportunity for parents to share their own experiences with others.

The classroom environment is one of the most important qualities in a good school, which means itís always wise to visit a school before making your final decision. Most schools generally welcome prospective family visits. Call the school, make an appointment with the principal and see first-hand how students, teachers and administrators interact.

A better understanding of all activities and services a school has to offer will ensure your child receives a well-balanced education that takes care of not only his or her mind, but also body and spirit.

C is for Comparison
Another step in choosing the best school for your child is make school-to-school comparisons, which can be done at SchoolMatters.com.

Compare schools in your area and make sure to probe your top choices by clicking on school links to see parent reviews, extracurricular activities, district finances, and even direct links to the school website.

By understanding the differences between schools, youíll be able to pick the one you feel is right for your child.

Research Leads to Grade A
Parents should take advantage of the many online resources to find the best match for their children. Many homeowners wouldnít buy an appliance without first checking its consumer rankings. Why choose a school without researching consumer reviews? Your child canít afford to lose a semester or a year test-driving a new school.


Thomas Sheridan is Vice President of School Evaluation Services, a division of Standard & Poorís. Today, School Evaluation Services provides parents with the largest easily searchable collection of education data ever assembled on www.schoolmatters.com.