7 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Middle School

Choosing the right middle school can be a daunting task, filled with a number of variables. In a city like Phoenix, there are a number of options available, whether you’re looking for a public or private, traditional or specialized, the process can feel like navigating a maze. That is why it is necessary to your due diligence by doing your research in order to find a school that suits your child’s needs and aligns with your values as a parent. 

Here are some factors to consider when you are choosing a middle school for your child and how Pardes Jewish Day School measures up in each category:

1. Academics and Curriculum

Above and beyond anything else, you want to be certain your child is going to receive the best education possible. Your child’s educational journey hinges on the institution you choose, making the decision you need to make now incredibly vital for their future. Finding a middle school that offers a well-rounded education means they must, at the very least, include the core classes of math, science, language arts, and social studies. You should also be looking for schools that complement those classes with specialty classes, like physical education and other programs that are specifically tailored to special interests like STEM or art classes. 

Pardes Academics and Curriculum: In addition to the core classes, Pardes offers a wide range of academic offerings. This past school year, we implement our BEAST Academy Classroom in grades 1-4 and expanded our math and reading/writing contact time in the classroom. Project-Based Learning takes place at all grade levels, many of which are completed through our Makerspace classes. We offer eight different electives for middle school students and specialty classes like visual and performing arts. Next year, we are implementing a music program where middle schoolers will learn to play instruments. 

2. Extracurricular Activities

The words “well-rounded education” don’t just pertain to academics. Extracurricular activities are crucial offerings for the personal growth of students. Make sure you consider the middle school’s sports teams, clubs, and service programs that your potential school offer. These activities can be invaluable to students who will develop an important skill set that includes leadership, team work, time management, and social skills. 

Pardes Extracurricular Activities: With the introduction of the school’s very first Golf team in 2024, Pardes now offers 18 sports, most of which compete in the Mountain Valley Athletic League. More than 80 middle school students competed in sports last year, with more than a three-quarters of those playing multiple sports. This past year also saw major enhancements to our After-School Programming, with the addition of Chess Club, Coding, Self-Defense, and Soccer Skills to name a few. 

3. School Culture and Environment

One of the most often overlooked factors when it comes to choosing the right middle school is the culture. That is because it is often hard to gauge the culture of a school from collateral or even their website. Your child wants to establish a sense of belonging, which is vital to their overall well-being. Take the time to get to know an institution by taking a tour of the campus. Take into account class size, teacher-student interaction, and the overall sense of the community. If you have the time, schedule a shadow day for your child so they can get an even better feel for the culture.  

Pardes Culture: The Pardes mission statement states: Pardes Jewish Day School is a welcoming community Jewish day school committed to exceptional secular and Jewish education with a focus on academics and character development. We emphasize the “welcoming” part of that statement as we pride ourselves on being an inclusive school where children of all religion, race, and nationality are welcome. Our 8:1 student-to-teacher ratio is among the best in the Phoenix Valley.

4. Location and Logistics

You obviously want to send your child to a middle school that is conveniently located near your home or work, but there are also other factors you must consider. Atop that list would be the type of area in which the school is located and the safety of the campus. You want your child to be safe and feel safe while at school. The schedule of the school is also very important for families with parents who both work.

Pardes location and logistics: We are situated in the heart of North Scottsdale on the beautiful Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus. Not only is Scottsdale one of the safest communities in the state of Arizona, but our school was built specifically with safety as one of the main features, highlighted by a keycard door entry system and perimeter fencing that doesn’t feel intrusive at all. Our 8:00 am start times and flexible after-school options make Pardes an excellent option for parents who work and cannot pick up their children at 3:00 pm. We also share a campus with the Valley of the Sun JCC where a number of our students participate in their after-school programming as well. 

5. Parental Involvement and Communication

Establishing a partnership with the parents is essential for a middle school’s sustained success. Be sure to research how a school communicates with their parents and the opportunities for parents to be involved, whether that be through volunteering or by joining school-affiliated organizations. Find a school that prioritizes open lines of communication and makes both you and your student feel welcome.

Pardes parental involvement and communication: Our School Information Management System, Veracross, is a state-of-the-art tool to not only seamless communicate with our parents, but also give them access to all the data and resources they should need. All communications are done through Veracross, where each parent has their own portal. We also use this system to provide a weekly school-wide newsletter, while our teachers maintain their own weekly newsletter through Google. Our parents are welcome to join the Kesher Parent Organization, which organizes a number of events throughout the school year, from holiday celebrations to book fairs, to grade-level socials. 

6. Tuition and Fees

If you are decided on the private school route, tuition and fees are often a dealbreaker. Make sure you look beyond the actual price to see what how much bang you are getting for your buck. Take into consideration facilities, programs, class size, class offerings, extracurriculars, and lunch programs.

Pardes Tuition and Fees: When in comparison to many of the private middle schools in Arizona, Pardes offers a very affordable tuition for a comprehensive educational experience.  We also offer in-person tuition sessions for parents to learn all of the available tax options and other ways they can maximize aid to minimize their out-of-pocket costs. 

7. Reputation and Reviews

Use technology to your advantage when choosing a middle school. Get online and look at Google, Niche, and other sites that review educational institutions. Talk to alumni, parents of alumni, and other members of their community. Take into consideration things like accreditation status, academic achievements, or any awards the school may have won. 

Pardes Reputation and Reviews: This school year, Pardes celebrated thirty years’ worth of excellence here in Scottsdale. Over the course of three decades, we have established a reputation as not only one of the best schools in the Phoenix metropolitan area, but the entire state of Arizona. Our alumni move on to the top high schools in the Valley and matriculate at some of the best colleges in the nation. 

Choosing the right middle school for your child requires careful consideration on many levels. Every student is unique and you will have to prioritize the factors above to find the best fit for your child – a place where they will maximize their potential and blossom into the young adult you envisioned them to be. Hopefully, you will