Searching for the "Perfect" School: Hint--It does not exist!
This post is directed mostly at the upper middle-class parents who seem to have made a second full time career out of finding a school for their 4 and 5 year-olds. This mad school search especially happens in big cities like my own Philadelphia as well as places like New York and Chicago. This is partially a function of parents wanting the best for their children (a perfectly understandable feeling), and largely a function of the reformers lie that "American education is failing".
As a teacher in a regular old public school and a parent whose two daughters were raised and educated in Philadelphia (the actual city, not the "surrounding area"), and who now are successfully ensconced in graduate school and undergraduate school, I can tell you this: your kids are going to be alright! Or, at least, the school you send them to is not going to make or break their educational careers nearly as much as what you, the parents, do (or do not do) at home! It is certainly not worth the hand-wringing, breast-beating, and outright keening I have seen when parents find out that their kid (for one reason or another) will not be attending their "first-choice" kindergarten. Your child's educational life is not ruined! The biggest indicator of a child's success in school is the socio-economic status of the parents.
So, all you parents who have read to their kids since before they were born, who take them on trips to the zoo, museums, apple-picking, plays, concerts, limit their exposure to inappropriate amounts of media, etc...., your kids are going to do just fine educationally no matter what school they attend! Of course, no parent wants a school in which their child is going to be abused or mis-treated or be miserable everyday--and a child with documented special needs requires a special school placement. But, barring those kinds of extraordinary circumstances, almost any school will be OK for a kid from a middle to upper middle-class family.
No school is perfect, not even a school that you pay many tens of thousands of dollars a year for. Each school my daughters attended had its good and bad points, and I would have changed things about each of them if I had been in charge of them. I spoke up when I needed to, adjusted course when I needed to, and overall I think both my daughters had good educational experiences in K-12.
They have good memories, some complaints (who doesn't?), had great social and emotional growth experiences, made good friends from many different backgrounds, and so far both have been very successful in their post-high school endeavors.
My point is this, do the best for your kids, but you and the income and experiences you provide for your children are much, much more important than the school they attend.
So worry more about raising good citizens of the city, commonwealth, nation, and world and less about finding the perfect school. When it come to choosing a school for your kid, calm the heck down!