Your children’s education and their learning environment will play a vital role in their development, both intellectually and emotionally. It can also affect their physical development. When choosing a school for your kids, every parent should consider these five factors.

Your children’s education and their learning environment will play a vital role in their development, both intellectually and emotionally. It can also affect their physical development. When choosing a school for your kids, every parent should consider these five factors.

1. Safety. Parents must always think safety-first regarding their children. It doesn’t matter if the school has great academics if your child’s safety is compromised on the playground or in the building. Find out the school’s policies for preventing and handling issues with drugs, alcohol, tobacco and abusive behavior. What is the school’s anti-bullying policy? Is there a zero-tolerance policy for bringing weapons to school? Check into the area surrounding the school. Is it safe? Do the police have to patrol frequently? Make sure the school has safety measures for emergencies and ask how parents are notified in case of an emergency.

2. Teacher-student ratio. Unfortunately, some schools simply do not have enough teachers. Your child may have difficulty thriving in a crowded classroom. Elementary school classrooms with more than 30 students per teacher are crowded. Kids who are especially quiet or shy can be overlooked when their classroom is full. To give your child every opportunity to shine, consider a school where the teacher-student ratio is small.

3. School report card. The U.S. Department of Education states that the No Child Left Behind act “requires school districts that receive federal funds to provide a report card on how its schools and the school district are doing.” This public report card tells parents how the school’s students scored on state tests and compares it to other schools in the same district. It will also detail the school’s graduation rates.

4. Curriculum. Your children’s school must provide a strong core program of academics including English/language arts, math, science and history, as well as physical education, arts and foreign languages. At the elementary level, be sure to investigate the school’s reading program. Without a strong reading program, students may fall behind in all their other subjects. Does the school have a program for gifted students? At the high school level, can your child take honors, advanced placement or dual-credit courses in preparation for college? Are there programs for children with special learning needs?

5. Extracurricular activities/community involvement. School can be so much more than books and classes for your children. School can be a place to make new friends, explore a new activity or play a competitive sport. Ask the school how its extracurricular activity program works. Can all students participate? Can grades or physical limitations keep a student from participating? How involved is the community with the school and its extracurricular programs? Does the school have an active PTO or PTA?