Tips for Talking Area Schools with Your Clients

by Katie Charland on May 5, 2010

AZ School

Photo courtesy of Flickr user rockychrysler

As REALTORS®, you are ambassadors for Arizona education. Sure, parents can research online – clicking through all 45 million hits that come up in a Google search for “Arizona schools.” It’s much more likely they’ll be looking to you for the inside scoop.

We’ve heard it all at Raising Arizona Kids magazine when it comes to choosing a school. Here is the essential information you will need when confronting the education question:

Understand the Differences between School Types

Public – Public school districts include several schools for each age group. Public schools are completely supported by state funds, must adhere to state education standards and report progress annually. Public school districts may include a “magnet school,” which is often designed around a specific type of curriculum or program.

Charter – Similar to public schools, charters are tuition-free and receive state funding based on the number of students who attend. Some charter schools operate as nonprofits. There are no geographic requirements to attend an Arizona charter school. Charters are often based around a particular subject, focus or mission.

Private – Private schools do not receive funding from the state and are not required to follow the state’s education code. They have no obligation to report school data to the state education department or share it with the public. As a result, it is much more difficult to compare private schools. However, private school students often make greater gains.

Montessori – Classes are grouped by ages, not grade levels (i.e. 3-6 years of age, 6-12, 12-15). Teachers go through 150 hours of training and take an integrated approach to learning (one lesson leads to another).

What Is “Open Enrollment?”

Open enrollment is a great solution for parents that want to live in one place but prefer a school in another area. Students can apply to attend a district school outside of their area. Continued enrollment is based on available space and the student’s ability to perform. Parents are required to provide transportation.

AZ Learns Scores

The most common question parents will have centers around student achievement and whether a school is performing. AZ Learns achievement profiles are provided each year and are based on state test scores, retention rates and adequate yearly progress. Rankings are as follows: Failing, Underperforming, Performing, Performing Plus, Highly Performing and Excelling.

It is important to be aware of an area’s AZ Learns score, not simply to answer parents concerns but for considering future home values. A school that is labeled “Failing” has only two years to reach performing status or face closure. An “Underperforming” school has three years.

Best Advice?

Encourage parents to schedule school visits. The first visit should be parents-only and be held after school so that they have the full attention of the staff. If a school meets a parent’s expectations and needs, then the child(ren) should be brought along for a class visit.

REALTORS® should be able to name one unique trait for the schools in the area. It could be a special set of courses offered, certification or training teachers obtain, or extracurricular activities at which the school excels. Parents are looking for something that stands out about the area, and schools are often your best bet.

Additional Information and Resources

Arizona Department of Education
Information on AIMS, AZ Learns, Standards & More

The Six Rules of School Choice
By Debra K. Slagle, M.Ed. (2008 Raising Arizona Kids)

How to Pick a School for Your Child Without Losing Your Mind
By Faith Boninger, Ph.D. (2005 Raising Arizona Kids)

Comparing Public, Charter, and Private Schools
By Lynn Trimble (2003 Raising Arizona Kids)

2010 Raising Arizona Kids’ Schools, Etc. Directory
A Guide to Maricopa County Schools

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