Public School vs. Private School: 25 Essential Considerations
We hear the question often:
"Why should we send our child to private school?"
The reasons are as myriad as the number of children in the world.
The answer often comes down to a private school offering a program, or academic approach, that would benefit your child. Or, a private school offers, or practices, a particular type of education that you, as a parent, believe would be best, or most beneficial, for your student (e.g. a Catholic school).
Even when a family decides that a private school might be the best educational option for their child, private school considerations are often tempered by costs and other questions.
Let's look at some variables in a family's school choice considerations.
Let's face it. A lot of public schools work well and public school works for most families — especially if you live in a good system.
We've noticed that over the last decade, or so, public schools have "raised their game." Although, these gains seem to be undergoing some backsliding under pressure from budget cuts.
Why public school?
1. It comes with the neighborhood
2. Taxpayer support
3. Resources, well funded schools will have:
4. Strong academic programs
5. Broad academic offerings
6. Broad extracurricular offerings
7. Community/parent involvement — a good degree of student & parent participation.
8. Proximity or transportation. Public schools are usually close to home and/or provide transportation to and from school. If a family has to provide transportation to and from school every day, the local public school is usually close to home.
Why not public school?
Many public schools will come up short against private schools in these areas:
9. Class size/high faculty to student ratios. Even the best public schools will have larger classes than almost all private schools.
10. Adult connection and involvement. Public school teachers complete their day and go home. They often don't stay involved and engaged with students beyond the traditional school day. Unless you live in a small town, parents and students are unlikely to have a personal line, or e-mail connection to their child's teacher.
11. Generalized education. With a broad mission and mandate, public schools do not practice any particular educational approach nor are they shaped by any particular philosophy or belief system. (I recognize that some public school systems practice particular types of education, Coalition of Essential Schools, etc. However, public schools shaped by a particular school of practice are exceptions; not the rule.)
12. College counseling. The average public school college counselor works with 476 students. Most of the college admission process is left to students and their families.
Why Choose a Private School?
13. A clear/definite educational approach. You may have a student who would benefit most from attending a Catholic school, an Episcopalian school, an all-boys school or an all-girls school.
14. A values shaped environment. Some private schools, although not all, teach and instill a clear set of values.
15. Focus on a particular type of student with academics geared to the growth and success of a particular type of student.
Just as America has colleges for all different types of students, America has private schools for all different types of students. Some schools work with high achieving, self regulating and self motivated students, some schools work with learning differences students, some schools work with students who need a strong daily routine.
16. Low faculty to student ratios. Private school classes tend to be smaller than their public school counterparts.
17. Teachers know their students.
18. Detailed and thorough student evaluation. Private school grading and report cards keep parents informed about what the student is learning and often include prose covering what and how the student is doing in the classroom.
19. Involved connected adults. Private school teachers tend to actively work to encourage and bring students into participation through mentoring and encouragement.
20. School fit. You can a find a school to meet your student where he/she stands in their development and, then, grow the student well from there.
21. College counseling. The average independent day school college counselor works with 125 students.
Why not private school?
22. Doing well. You have a student doing well in your public school.
23. Inconvenience. Your private school options may be far from home.
24. Time and resources. You have the time and resources to work with your child daily and in the college admission process.
25. Expense. Private school is expensive and may require a family to apply for financial aid.
School Fit Must Drive A Family's School Decisions
Where a student goes to school is shaped and determined by any number of variables. The choice should always be driven by working to find the best school fit for each student and family.