Is it Time For a New School?


How do you know when it’s time to consider a new school? It seems as if our eighth-grade son has stalled this year, and may even be sliding backward. He was diagnosed with LD in second grade, but was doing well with Special Ed support until he hit middle school. This year has been very challenging, and it’s made us think he may not be in the best school for him.

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Audrey N. Ludemann, M.S.Ed. 

Audrey Ludemann is a principal of the Bertram Group, an educational consulting company. Ludemann’s experience includes more than 15 years in the classroom, plus a decade as an educational advisor.

Many families commit to a school in pre-K or kindergarten, thinking that their child is “set” until at least fifth or eighth grades, and possibly through high school. By upper elementary and middle grades, however, personalities and learning styles have become more pronounced. Families may then be faced with decisions about how best to nurture their child.

Most families who contemplate changing schools do so because of two fundamental reasons: Either their child is eager to take on new challenges, or their child is struggling. Gifted students, for example, may yearn for enrichment. Students with learning differences may need support. Some students experience low self-esteem relating to school events. Others discover a driving passion for sports, arts, or science that they want to pursue intensely.

The decision to change is no small matter. It can disrupt social networks, impact finely tuned family schedules, and carry financial implications. Just finding the new educational options requires an investment…to be followed by further time and energy in helping the student transition to a new school. With so much at stake, parents may wonder, will things really be different?

As an educational consultant, I have worked with many families for whom the answer to that question was a resounding yes. As a child’s specific needs emerge, parents often respond by working with the current teachers and supplementing with after-school activities. Over time, however, if families find that they are constantly trying to “fix” school-related issues, then it is time to explore other options.

Trust Your Instincts

I strongly encourage parents to trust their instincts: if you suspect that the current school is not furthering your child’s growth, then that is reason enough to investigate alternatives.

The educational world offers many varied—and pedagogically sound—educational options. For every student, a school exists that offers the appropriate challenges, rewards, and supports to promote their optimal growth.

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