How to choose a school

What is most important?

Picking a school is an important choice. It affects the whole family. The first step in choosing a school is thinking about what matters to your family and to your kids.

There are lots of schools to choose from in Detroit. Writing down your concerns helps you narrow down options.

Here are some questions that help identify what is most important:

  • What do I want my child to get out of school?
  • Does my child have any special gifts that she/he could explore more?
  • How will I be involved in my child’s school?
  • What helps my child feel safe and open to learning?
  • How far can we travel to go to school?
  • How can we prepare for going to a new school?

Here are some examples of things that families look for in a school:

  • Strong academics
  • Location and transportation
  • Involved families
  • Good meals
  • Afterschool activities and sports
  • Caring teachers and staff
  • Multiple languages
  • Welcoming building
  • Safety

Helpful websites

Here are helpful websites that can help you pick schools:

Helpful people and groups

Here are some communities that come together to talk about selecting schools. You can host your own talks within your neighborhood, too.

Detroit Parent Network Support Groups - (313) 309-8100

Special Education Parent Resource Center - (313) 873-8491

The Best Classroom Project on Facebook

What schools should we visit?

Once you know what matters the most to your family, you can narrow down your school choices. Pick 5 schools to visit.

Where can you get support to help you make the right choices?

You are not the only one looking for a school in Detroit. You can find support through your friends and family. Support groups (people that come together help one another) are great for sharing tough questions and stories.

What questions do we ask schools?

Now that you have your 5 school choices, it is time to visit them. This is the best way to find out if a school might be a good fit for your family. When you visit, take notes so you can remember what you learned.

Here are some questions to ask schools:

  • How do you select your teachers?
  • How will you help my child and other students succeed?
  • What do you prepare students for?
  • What is this school good at?
  • How will the school day work for my child? What subjects will she/he take?
  • How do you stay in touch with parents about student progress? Anything beyond a report card?
  • Do you have any support programs before and after school?
  • How do you manage rules, safety, and security with students?
  • Do you have arts and sports programs?
  • What support do you offer for students with special needs? Or students who are learning English as a second language?
  • Can I take an application home? Do you have any other materials I should read?

Our lives are busy! It can be hard to make time to visit 5 schools. You could ask a friend or family member to visit a school for you (with your questions and notes). Or, you could organize a group of friends to visit one school each. Then, you could come back together and share stories as a group.

What is next?

Talk about the schools you visited with your family. Choose the top two that meet your most important needs. If none of the schools you visited fit your family well, talk to more people and choose other schools to visit.

Think about each school that you saw:

  • Is the environment safe and clean?
  • What is the food like?
  • Does this school seem organized?
  • How many students are usually in a class?
  • Did students seem to get good attention from the teachers and staff?
  • Are people in the school respectful to each other?
  • Was the staff friendly?

Enroll in your family’s top two choices as soon as possible. Your first choice may not have space, so it is best to apply to more than one. You may need to gather important documents like proof of residency or your child’s birth certificate.


See the everyday! It’s great to visit a school during an open house or public event. You could also drop in during a normal day and catch a glimpse of how it feels. You can learn a lot from how a school treats a surprise guest.


Download this complete document as a PDF booklet to share in your community.