George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Parent Partnership

The Search for the Perfect Kindergarten

You’re not alone in this big decision. We’ve tapped the brains of parents and experts to guide you through the process in this multipart series.

Many of today’s parents remember their earliest years in school as simple times. They went to the closest public elementary school or to a private school their parents chose. Kindergarten was a rewarding and meaningful experience: Play was encouraged; they made their first real friends; they learned how to tie their shoes.

But placing their own children in kindergarten now feels vastly more complicated. While every community is different, school systems across the country are now offering a bewildering array of choices. There are traditional neighborhood schools, private and parochial schools, and brand-new charter and magnet schools beckoning. To make matters more complex, exceptions like transfer permits enable children to go to an alternate school in or outside of their district, and lottery systems allow enrollment at a school based on luck of the draw.

The numbers reflect the changed landscape. In the 10 years between the 2003–04 and 2013–14 school years, enrollment in charter schools tripled nationally and the number of magnet schools increased by more than 50 percent. All of the nation’s largest districts are now offering more options for selecting schools, and nearly all states have an official state policy that allows students alternatives beyond their neighborhood school. This situation is compounded by the many parents who move each year to be zoned for specific schools or districts.

Meanwhile, the growing body of research suggesting that kindergarten can have impacts on children throughout their lives has raised the stakes for parents to make the “best” choice for their child. This increase in pressure can further long-standing inequities tied to access and education. No matter what a district offers or a private school provides through scholarships, families that have been marginalized by income, language, or ethnicity have a harder time accessing the resources to explore options for their children.

Over the last several months, Edutopia reached out to parents around the country to hear about their experiences evaluating and selecting kindergartens. We share their stories here. We realize their stories do not represent every viewpoint or experience and recognize that parents with fewer choices are often harder to reach.

We’ve also included a spotlight on effective programs, an article from an expertresearch on key questions you might have, two checklists to organize your approach (School Impressions and 3-Step Kindergarten Planning), and a glossary of key terms. We hope all of this gives you a foundation to start from as you prepare for your child’s first year of school.

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      Parent Stories: When Your First School Choice Isn't the Right One

      Sometimes your child's first school doesn't work out. Four parents share their stories of making a change.
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      Parent Stories: When Your Neighborhood School Doesn't Cut It

      Sometimes your assigned school isn't a good fit. Read stories about why three parents selected schools outside their neighborhood.
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      Parent Stories: When Your District Changes the Game

      Sometimes your school system throws you a curveball. Learn how three parents navigated their new terrain.
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      4 Innovative, Local Programs Smooth Kindergarten Transitions

      The transition to kindergarten can be stressful for children, parents, and schools, but communities throughout the country are meeting the challenge head-on.
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      How to Ease Your Child's Kindergarten Jitters

      Help your child transition to kindergarten smoothly with some of these ideas for reducing anxiety and making goodbyes easier.
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      Research Is In: The Real Impact of Class Size and School Diversity

      Research-based answers to three common questions parents have about kindergarten.
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      Parent Partnership

      Download: 3-Step Kindergarten Planning Checklist

      Determine your options, identify your family's needs, and make an action plan.
    8. A chalk drawing of a school bus.
      Parent Partnership

      Download: Kindergarten Impressions Checklist

      When evaluating kindergartens, make sure you're asking all the right questions.
    9. An illustration of an owl drawn on a chalkboard wearing glasses and a graduation cap standing on four books.
      Parent Partnership

      Glossary: Demystifying School Jargon

      Understand the terminology behind kindergarten enrollment.
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Sophie's picture

That is a good tip especially sell to retail

those fresh to the blogosphere. Short but very accurate information... Appreciate your sharing this one.

A must read article!

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