Some families, especially those who are well settled in suburban school districts, don't give much thought to school selection. But for others, including families in large cities with numerous school options, or those who are considering moving or enrolling their child in a private school, solid information on schools is of critical importance.
For New York City families who can have choices of public schools available at every level, an excellent starting point is the school search feature on the website InsideSchools. Located on the home page of the site, this feature allows you to search by school name, number, or geographic location. The individual reports on each school are generally the results of visits to the school by members of the InsideSchools staff, sometimes multiple visits over a period of time. In addition, comments by parents and others often highlight issues that can be important to families trying to decide if a particular school would be a good fit for their child. The site also includes news and information on the often complex process of applying to New York City public schools.
Outside of New York City, an excellent option for researching schools is Great Schools, a national nonprofit whose funders include the Gates, Walton, and Robertson foundations. The site lists over 200,000 schools and allows families to search using a variety of parameters. This site includes all kinds of schools -- public, private, and charter. There is guidance on how to choose a school, including such issues as how to choose a school when moving from a distance. The site also has sections for homework help and parenting issues.
For families who want a private school setting, the website of the National Association of Independent Schools has a Parents' Guide that includes a school search feature that allows searches by such parameters as specialized sports programs (equestrian and crew among several dozen others) and schools that offer International Baccalaureate programs.