Illinois Loop
Your guide to education in Illinois
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The Illinois Loop website is no longer updated on a a regular basis. However, since many of the links and articles have content and perspectives that are just as valid today, we are keeping this website online for parents, teachers and others researching school issues and solutions.
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How to Choose a School

How to Choose a School -- The REAL Story

Choosing a School by "Curb Appeal"

  • Barbara Shafer studied education issues extensively and once spearheaded an effort to start a Core Knowledge charter school in Libertyville (an effort doomed by our state's weak charter law). She writes about her family's search for a school in a new city in her article which we highly recommend:

    "Curb Appeal Education" by Barbara Shafer. Excerpt:

    "When my husband accepted a new job in Minnesota, we knew it would mean shopping for a house and a school district. ... I began by asking real estate agents about school districts. I received the names of four districts [within] commute distance to work. [But this school information was] Curb Appeal only -- 'reputation,' state test scores, number of National Merit kids, percent going to college, facilities including marble floors, swimming pools, and Food Courts, etc. Last time, I bought my school on 'curb appeal' and got a lemon. ... Fool me twice? I don't think so."
  • In an article from the New Oxford Review (December 2001) author Jack Taylor crisply states the obstacle with trying to improve suburban schools:
    "One reason why they can sustain this level of denial is that the schools look normal. A new school was recently built in our neighborhood. Its architecture is not my cup of tea, but its reflective windows and clean, low rectangular shapes appeal to the modern sensibilities of my neighbors. Inside, shiny linoleum floors and computer stations radiate an atmosphere of high tech academics. As a species, we believe that anything that looks good is good. We buy cars this way, we buy houses this way, some of us pick spouses this way, and we enroll our kids in schools this way."
  • While "curb appeal" by itself is never a sufficient indicator of a good learning environment, good design can complement a good curriculum and program of instruction. Consider this PDF article from the "Association of School Business Officials International."

Reading and Math

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