Getting your child into a good school

Paula Molligan's Tips:

There are a myriad of public and private school choices available to families in the San Francisco Bay Area. Private schools include independent, proprietary, and religiously affiliated. Families can explore their options for schools with the best academic, athletic and social environment or spiritual environment to fit their student's needs, as well as consider financial commitments and other special needs and expectations.

No one school is best for all students and what families are looking for in a school will vary considerably.

1. Educational goals. Consider your goals concerning academic rigor, curriculum offerings, and co-curricular programs.

2. Keep practical matters in mind. These include level of expected and/or required parent involvement, time schedules, transportation, day care availability and costs, and summer, after school programs foreign study, book costs, possible computer costs. If you are considering private schools think about the financial impact of all costs involved including fees, donations, and yearly tuition increases.

3. Objectively assess your student. What are your student's strengths and challenges? Consider academic potential, motivation, social skills, behavior, physical abilities, special talents and interests. Would your student thrive in multi-age groupings, independent study, a traditional or a progressive environment? Religiously affiliated? Single sex? Day or boarding school?

4. Make a priority list. Determine what is absolutely essential, what is negotiable and what is expendable. Use these criteria when evaluating individual school programs.

5. Be an informed consumer. Take the process seriously. Find out about a school's mission statement/philosophy, leadership, accreditation, strategic plan, financial stability, endowment size, faculty salaries.

6. Give careful regard to a school's academic and behavioral expectations. Check the faculty qualifications and turnover, teaching styles and student:/teacher ratio, class schedules, homework policies, discipline procedures, test scores, high school or college placements, class size, diversity and community service requirements

7. Visit and apply to school(s) that match your family's and student's needs. Use the priority list you made as a checklist to match with a school's program.

8. Be organized and meet deadlines. Be polite and on time for the appointment(s), and return all documents by the deadline date(s).

Little and Molligan specializes in helping families with children preschool through high school age select appropriate schools for their student(s) as well as navigate through the admission process. Little and Molligan,, is a full service educational consulting firm.

About Paula Molligan
Paula Molligan earned a BS in Elementary Education form University of Colorado, a MBA from Golden Gate University, and a MA in Special Education from San Francisco State University. Paula was a classroom teacher in the East Bay and Marin in both private and public sectors. She has also served as a middle school administrator and as the Head of a private school in Marin. She is a former member of the Bay Area Independent School Heads Association. She is an experienced learning specialist as well as a secondary school placement counselor and instructor for high school admission testing. Paula is a founding partner of Little and Molligan School Placement Specialists and coauthor of Private High Schools of the San Francisco Bay Area and Private K-8 Schools of San Francisco and Marin. In the past six years Little and Molligan has served hundreds of families of preschool, elementary and high school age students find "The Fit" for schools.

Rona Renner's Tips:

Choosing a High-Quality Preschool: The Three P's
The following is from Preschool California (

A new study by the RAND Corporation finds that a majority of California's preschools do not prepare children for kindergarten. To find those that do, focus your search in three areas: people, program and place. Here are a few of the things you should look for:

1. What kind of training and education do the teachers have?

2. Are the teachers and kids engaged in conversations?

3. Can teachers tell you not only what they are doing, but why?

4. Does the program use a curriculum to guide learning?

5. Does the program welcome and involve families?

6. Does the space have separate learning centers (reading, art, dramatic play, writing, etc.) and a well-equipped playground?

About Rona Renner:
Rona Renner, RN has been a nurse for over 40 years, and is temperament specialist and parent educator. She is the Executive Director of Interactive Parenting Media, and the host of Childhood Matters Radio show, Sundays at 9AM on Green 960AM

Sylvia Xuereb's pointers for parents:

Top tips for families looking for a quality child care center

1. Is the childcare center licensed? Is it accredited?

2. Is it safe? Is there fire protection, plenty of light, air and clean facilities? Are there formal procedures for the arrival and departure of children?

3. Is there enough indoor and outdoor space for both quiet and active learning and playing?

4. Is there a clean, properly equipped area specifically for infants and toddlers? Is there appropriate interaction and nurturing of infants and toddlers?

5. Is parent participation encouraged? Are parents welcome and encouraged to visit and observe at any time? Are there scheduled parent conferences and developmental progress reports?

6. Does the center have strict procedures for hiring caregivers? Is the director a professional person who inspires confidence? Do teachers have experience and skills in childcare methods? Are applicants fingerprinted when required by state law and required to take a medical exam in compliance with state licensing regulations? Are background checks and written references mandatory?

7. Does the center have a written, planned program you can see in action? Are learning programs designed specifically for each age group?

8. Are educational programs focused on the whole child, designed to meet the social, emotional, physical and intellectual needs of children? Are they fun?

We suggest that parents carry a checklist and takes notes while touring facilities.

About Sylvia Xuereb, Shores Director in Redwood City
Experience: Sylvia has over 15 years of experience working with children ages 2-12 years of age. She has taught preschool as well as school age children. She has held positions of teacher, head teacher, assistant director, and site director in previous employment.

Philosophy: My philosophy is to love, treat and care for all children as if they were my own. Luckily that comes natural to me. Children are the most valuable people that are going to shape and lead our future. I want to help build a positive future with them.

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