For example, a would-be country dweller leased a house, with option to buy, in a very good neighborhood. House, location, and surroundings exactly pleased and it was a scant ten minutes from the station on a good road. The school system was well rated but the graded school for this section drew a majority of its pupils from a textile mill settlement two or three miles away. The children of the English spinners and weavers were decent, well-behaved youngsters but their speech was distinctly along cockney lines. Within a few months the three small sons of the new country dweller had developed habits of speech native to the English textile towns. Stern correction at home availed little and their parents abandoned the idea of buying in that locality. Instead, another was selected after personal inspection of the school to which the three boys would go. The new home is not, in some respects, as attractive as the other nor is it as convenient for commuting, but one cannot have everything. They are content and the small boys are once more expressing themselves with a New England accent.
In inspecting both the graded and high schools of a neighborhood that pleases you, the obvious things are the buildings, school bus service, play space, provisions for school lunches and so forth. These are tangible and can be readily observed. Much more important are the intangibles. These include the scholastic standing of the particular school; the pedagogical ability and personality of the individual teachers; and, finally, whether those who manage village, borough, or town governments, provide adequate school appropriations.
Schools that really educate children can be operated on starvation budgets but, more often than not, the quality of teaching suffers. Likewise the schools of a town reflect the capacity and ability of those in charge. To judge this, make it a point to meet the local school superintendent. If there is a parent-teachers association, a frank discussion with its leader is an excellent idea. From talks like these you can sometimes gather cogent information that neither superintendent nor member of the school association would or could put in writing. If possible observe the school while it is in session. The attitude of teachers and children should enable you to form an estimate of it as a whole.
In determining the scholastic standing of a high school, its rating by college entrance boards, the success in college of recent graduates, and kindred data can be readily obtained and will tell a complete story. However, under present conditions, there are some excellent high schools which pay little or no attention to college preparation because relatively few pupils intend to enter college. If this condition prevails at the high school your children would normally attend and your plans for them include college or technical school, recognition of it is important. A year or two in a good private school that makes a specialty of college preparation is probably the answer. But don’t wait until a son or daughter is nearly through the local high school to discover this lack of specific preparation.