How to find the best school for your child:
Advice from experienced parents!
Prepared by Columbus PACE


Lottery applications 2006

High school - available Jan. 5; due Jan. 31
Elementary and Middle School
Available (soon?!) TBA ; due March 3, 2006 TBA

School Fairs

To help you in your decisions, the district offers school fairs, where schools provide information about their programs.
January 19 High School Fair
Middle School Fair - February 7, 2006 at Woodward Park Middle School, 5151 Karl Rd., from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Elementary School Fair - February 23, 2006 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., location TBA

School Visits
Most schools schedule visits. Call for an appointment, and ask to talk with the staff you need information from. Bring your student.

How to choose
Determine what things are important to you. (See attached form). Is bus transportation critical for you or were you planning to provide your own transportation? Does your child need Special Education or ESL services? Do you need a Latchkey program? Do you need a school near your daycare provider?
At the middle and high school levels, you might wish to seek schools or programs that mesh with your child’s aspirations for college selections or career goals.

Information on schools
The CPS Website has information on each school.

Bus transportation is not available to all schools. Make sure you have backup plans for transportation if you select one of these schools (call 221-FACT for more information).


Some alternative high schools do not have sports teams. If your child attends an alternative school he or she can participate in high school sports at the home (assigned) school. If your child is interested in athletics, you should interview both the coach of the team your child will be playing on and the school's athletic director.  
  • What is the grade point average for your (football, basketball, , swimming, wrestling...) team?  If they don't know the answer to that question, run, don't walk.
  • How many of your players go on to college?  (not how many get athletic scholarships)  The numbers should be at least as high as for the general school population.
  • What academic supports are in place to help athletes at your school?  Study tables?  Tutors?  Peer counseling?  How many children use these supports?  A coach who creates a team social climate that honors academic achievement is going to make a peer group of athletes where gifted kids can thrive.
    Look for coaches who have a strong sense of priorities in which academics comes first.  Look for coaches that you can build a rapport with.


Arts programs vary widely in Columbus Schools. If your child is interested in the arts, don't pick the school without attending a performances or art exhibits there first.  If you can, go during the day and listen to practices. Watch the teachers and how they interact with the students. Interview them.  Where are former students now? What are the performance opportunities in the school?  Do they engage in competitions or festivals?  When are ensembles/rehearsals scheduled?

Academic challenge
  • Programs and offerings for gifted students in CPS are available to all students. You may have to demonstrate to a teacher that you can handle work in an accelerated class, but you do not have to be identified as gifted in order to take the class.  
  • Kids and parents who are considering acceleration (moving ahead one or more years in one or more subjects) need to get the support of the teacher at the school they are currently in.  Your current teacher's recommendation will carry weight.
  • Acceleration is available in most middle schools for math and science, so students can take Algebra I and Biology in 9th grade. But in order to schedule both AP Calculus and AP Physics in High School, students will need to begin this path earlier, taking Algebra I in 7th grade and Geometry in 8th grade. Ask if this is possible.
  • Gifted Services: for elementary and middle schools, ask how many gifted students are at the school, and how many days per week the Gifted Specialist is there. Ask who teaches the cluster group classes, and visit those classes.
  • Internships: for students who learn best in practical situations, consider one of the high schools that has a full-day weekly internship program.

Extracurricular activities

Social life is really important. You can craft a good academic program at any Columbus High School if you are willing to work with the school and do some creative scheduling. The best matches are made on the basis of where friends are going (if you like the friends) and school-related interests such as music, drama, clubs, and athletics. School fairs are a good place to find out which programs are offered.
Make sure you will be able to either receive or provide transportation for after school activities.

School Choice for College Planning


If you have not taken a good number of the AP classes available in your school, you are less likely to be accepted  to highly selective colleges. Parents of 5th graders need to understand this in order to give their children the widest number of options when they are high school juniors and seniors.  
  • Have a discussion with the Middle School counselor and the Gifted Specialist about which Middle School classes will best prepare your child for AP work in High School.
  • Take advantage for every opportunity to accelerate and compact curriculum that is available.
  • If you are in doubt about how to prepare your child, visit the High School AP teacher and ask what they recommend.
  • Contact I KNOW I CAN at 469-7044. They have terrific college planning tools showing what to consider at each grade level.
  • Take the Midwest Talent Search. Part of the service they provide is recommendations for pre-college classes.
  • Investigate the Columbus Virtual High School at 3365-5728 or for self-paced core courses.

All high schools now have AP courses, and the choice is increasing every year. Look for courses in your area of interest, and talk with the principal about what courses may be offered in the future. In addition, high school students also have options to take college courses (Post-Secondary Education Options: call 365-6626).
  • Enroll in the Humanities program as preparation for AP English, Literature, and History courses.
  • Continue the path of acceleration that you established in middle school. Take the PSAT in 9th grade if at all possible. It's good practice for when the test really counts and you will start receiving college mail right away. 
Questions to ask high school guidance counselors:
  • How many of the AP students earn scores of 4 or 5 on the final exams?  How many students took AP classes last year?  Is that number growing?  
  • Ask about National Merit Scholars, National Achievement Scholars, and Commended scholars in the last few years. How many at the school?  Where are those kids going to college? Are they honored prominently in the school?  
  • What are the average ACT and SAT scores for the senior class last year?  The school should be proud of their academic achievements and be quite ready to brag about the students’ accomplishments.  
If something your child needs is not offered, that does not mean it cannot be requested.  Staff members from the Gifted and Talented Program are very helpful in working with parents. This website holds many resources for helping you to evaluate and decide about schools, Some information is specific to Ohio.


Source: Compiled by the Planning and Evaluation Service of the U.S. Department of Education from various sources.

Get a Leg Up on College Preparation and Save on Tuition High school students can also take courses for credit at many colleges. These courses, Advanced Placement and Tech-Prep, are available in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades. Middle school and junior high school students who plan ahead and take algebra, a foreign language and computer courses by the eighth grade are better prepared for Advanced Placement and Tech-Prep courses in high school.

Taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Advanced Placement courses are college-level courses in 16 different subjects, from arts and music to calculus and English that help students get ready for college during high school. Students who score high enough on the AP exams can receive advanced placement in college or college credit. This saves time and money, as students may be able to take fewer classes in college.

Taking Tech-Prep courses. Students who want to pursue a technical program at a community, technical or junior college may want to prepare by taking some technical courses at the high school career centers. Talk to someone at your child’s school or from a community, junior or technical college to find out the best high school courses to take for tech prep involvement. Work with your school counselor to find local businesses or school-to-work councils that can provide your child with these opportunities.

Getting ready for college admissions exams. Take these exams as early as you can - Most colleges require students to take either the SAT I or the ACT in their junior or senior year of high school. Ask your guidance counselor how your child can best prepare for these exams.

Don’t go it alone: help for parents Some parents, especially those who did not go to or finish college themselves, may worry that they cannot provide their child the guidance and support needed to get ready for college. But remember, getting ready for college is more work than anyone can handle on their own, and you don’t need to have gone to college yourself to help someone else get ready for college. To provide children extra opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills they need for college, many schools offer before- and after-school programs, where children can learn more about the subjects that interest them, under the care and guidance of adults. Some schools also have mentoring programs, where an adult who has studied or worked in the same field in which a child is interested can provide extra help and advice about, for example, the challenging math and science courses college-bound students need to take, and how to plan for a college and a career connected to their interests. Ask your child’s teachers or guidance counselor for information about such programs in your local schools. Ask your child’s principal about opportunities for teachers or others who have graduated from college to come into the classroom to talk with students about their experiences and success.

Courses To Take in Middle and Junior High School

By the time a child is in sixth grade, families should start talking about going to college. Make it clear that you expect your children to go to college, and together start planning how to get there. Everyone knows that high school courses and grades count for admission to college, but many people do not realize that a college education also builds on the knowledge and skills acquired in earlier years. Your child should plan a high school course schedule early, in the sixth or seventh grade.

Challenging courses help kids get into college. Research shows that students who take algebra and geometry early (by the end of the eighth and ninth grades) are much more likely to go on to college than students who do not. In a national sample, only 26 percent of low-income students who did not take geometry went to college; but 71 percent of low-income students who took geometry went to college. It is common in other developed countries for students to have mastered the basics of math, algebra, and some geometry by the end of the eighth grade. By taking algebra early in middle and junior high school, students can enroll in chemistry, physics, and trigonometry. In addition, students should take three to four years of a foreign language and as many Advanced Placement courses as they can before finishing high school.

Just as employers want workers who have certain skills, most colleges want students who have taken certain courses. Many of these courses can be taken only after a student has passed other, more basic courses. The most important thing a student can do to prepare for college is to sign up for the right courses and work hard to pass them. As parents, you should get involved in choosing your children’s schedule for the next year, and make sure that your children can and do take challenging courses. College-bound middle and junior high school students should take:

  • Algebra I (in eighth grade) and Geometry (in ninth grade) or other challenging math courses that expect students to master the essentials of these subjects. Algebra and geometry form the foundation for the advanced math and science courses that students need to take in high school to prepare for college. These courses give students the skills they need to succeed on college entrance exams, in college math classes and in their future careers.
  • English, Science and History or Geography. Together with math, these courses make up the “core” or basic academic classes. Every student should take English every year in middle school and in high school. They should also take as many science and history (including geography) classes as possible because all of them are good preparation for college. See the chart on the next page for examples of recommended courses.
  • Foreign Language. Many colleges require their students to study a foreign language for at least two years, and some prefer three or four years of one language. Taking a foreign language shows colleges that a student is serious and willing to learn the basics plus more, and shows employers that he or she is prepared to compete in the global economy.
  • Computer Science. Basic computer skills are now essential, and more and more jobs require at least a basic knowledge of computers. Make sure your child takes advantage of any opportunities the school offers to learn to use computers.
  • The Arts. Many colleges view participation in the arts and music as a valuable experience that broadens students’ understanding and appreciation of the world around them. It is also well known and widely recognized that the arts contribute significantly to children’s intellectual development.

Courses to take in High School
There’s no substitute for taking challenging courses and working hard. The following chart lists some of the courses students should take.
High School Courses Recommended for College

English 4 years

Mathematics 4 years

  American literature
  English literature
  world literature
  algebra I    trigonometry
  geometry    precalculus
  algebra II    calculus

History and Geography 2 to 3 years

Laboratory Science 3 to 4 years

  Geography world cultures
  U.S. history world history
  U.S. government civics
  earth science

Visual and Performing Arts 1 to 2 years

Challenging Electives 1 to 3 years

  computer science

Foreign Language 3 to 4 years


Note: Taking Advanced Placement courses and Tech-Prep courses in any of these subjects can give students added skills for college.

PLANNING FOR COLLEGE: OTHER RESOURCES These web resources are all available at the following website: College is Possible Sponsored by the Coalition of American Colleges and Universities, this site has information on preparing for college, including recommendations for junior and senior high school students. It has sections on choosing the right college and on how to pay for college. There are good links to other sites with information on preparing for and applying to college and on paying for a college education.

Getting Ready for College Early: A Handbook for Parents of Students in the Middle School Years Written for parents as an introduction to preparing for their children's college education, this site includes recommendations for steps to be taken during the junior and senior high school years. A Spanish language version is also available.

GrO/Going Right On GrO is a free downloadable multimedia program from the College Board designed to encourage middle school students to start thinking about college. GrO was designed for early teens who may be uncertain about their future prospects for college or unsure about how to get on the college-bound track.

Mapping Your Future 
This site, from the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation, contains helpful information and useful links. A Spanish language version of the site is available. See Careership for interactive career activity.

Post Secondary Guide This site, sponsored by the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights), provides recommendations for college preparation and lists, publications, and resource links for parents and students with disabilities.

Preparing Your Child for College. A Resource Book for Parents. A comprehensive guide for parents, this online publication provides answers to general questions and information on preparing students academically, financing a college education, and the importance of long range planning. This mission of this Web site is to give college students and students planning on going to college easy access to the information and series available from the U.S. government. The site also includes links to other educational and some commercial sites. The site was developed as a cooperative effort of the federal government, higher education, and students to reflect what students and families say is the information they need.

Summer programs to help prepare students with learning disabilities for college This directory provides information on summer programs that prepare high school juniors and seniors with LD and/or ADD for the challenges of college-level work.

Think College, This U.S. Department of Education Web site has information for pre-high school, high school, returning adult students, and families. There are links to financial aid and college planning Web sites. 

Think College Early This handbook for students in middle and junior high school shows students how a college education will improve their lives. The importance of early planning, choosing the right courses, and financing an education are stressed.

Prepared by Suzanne Hayes and Lea Pearson, PACE, with help from Gifted and Talented staff and the School Choice Office