For me, at this point, the main sign is if your school is public. Although there are some notably fabulous public schools, in the main, our educational philosophies in this country are so far out of whack right now that it is nearly impossible to get a good education at a public institution. I believe in the concept, but not the current iteration. Having been previously incorrectly labeled as someone who hates public school, I feel the need to make that disclaimer every time I criticize it. I was fortunate to teach at one incredible public school in Seattle for my first job, which is probably why I stayed in teaching and in public school for so long.
Now that that is out of the way, here are the ten signs you need a different education for your child:
1. They say they hate school.
2. They find it difficult to interact with children of different ages or adults.
3. They are fixated on trendy/designer clothes.
4. They come home from school cranky.
5. They complain about situations or conflicts that are unfair and ongoing.
6. They have lost interest in creative expression (art, music, dance, etc)
7. They have no interest in reading or pursuing an interest for fun and are doing the bare minimum.
8. They procrastinate in their homework.
9. They don't come home excited about anything from school.
10. The school nurse suggests a behavior-regulating drug.
Obviously, students demonstrate some or all of these characteristcs across their lives; these are not abnormal in and of themselves.
The key is looking for these signs together, over time, exhibited with more severity than might be usual.
From my personal experience, #7 was a huge warning sign for me. I knew The Child was capable of more, bu she was never asked to do her best, just to do the minimum. She spent much of her primary schooling years reading in the corner because she finished first, learning very quickly that she didn't actually have to go above and beyond to get the grade.
You have options now, options that go beyond expensive private schools and straight-up homeschooling. You don't have to remain on the sinking ship - there are life rafts everywhere; you just have to take them.