Tips for choosing private schools
When comparing private schools and public schools, it's important to note that the former are businesses and the latter are bureaucratic institutions. Private schools are for-profit operations whose success depends on the bottom-line performance of students. Public schools are not operated for profit and are solely focused on teaching standardized curricula.
The Council for American Private Education (CAPE) estimates that 11 percent of all American students from kindergarten to grade 12 are enrolled in private schools. These schools have distinct educational advantages, since they're free to set their own courses of study and aren't beset by the "no child left behind" mandate that's part of the nation's public school system.
Advantages of Private Schools
Private schools have more flexibility, superior discipline, smaller class sizes and better facilities. All of these factors coalesce to give private schools a significant advantage over public schools; for example, more flexibility and smaller class sizes lead to better discipline, which attracts better teachers. The fact that parents pay tuition fees encourages them to lean on their kids to produce tangible academic and extracurricular results. Here's a closer look at how each of these factors leads to a better education:
- Flexibility. A private high school is more performance-driven, as parents, teachers and administrators work together to form the curricula. Specialized schools, like private military schools, are focused on core principles that unite all students. Private boarding schools typically feature an extremely broad range of extracurricular activities.
- Superior discipline. Private schools have clear and well-established guidelines for dealing with troublesome students. Problem students are easily expelled, helping teachers and students feel safer. In the public school system, troubled students have to end up somewhere, and this is usually to the disadvantage of the teacher and students in the class where they end up.
- Smaller class sizes. Smaller private school class sizes lead to more effective learning. Teacher-to-student ratios average 12-to-1 for private schools, versus about 30-to-1 for public schools. Smaller classes also facilitate better performance tracking.
- Better facilities. Private schools have multiple revenue sources, including both tuition and endowments, to fund better facilities.
Specific Types of Private Schools
You'll also find that there's a wide variety of private schools that cater to the needs of different groups, including everything from athletically and intellectually gifted children to troubled teenagers and religious students. Activities that focus more sharply on the interests of these special students are available at these schools.
Typical Private School Costs
Tuition costs and fees depend on the age of the student, the location of the school, its reputation and the type of private school it is. Basic tuition for private elementary school education ranges from about $2,000 to $14,000 per year. Private secondary education usually costs between about $5,000 and $20,000 a year.
Paying for Private Schools
Many private school scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic achievement, and are primarily available to underprivileged students. Some institutions issue tuition waivers; private student loans are also an option. The School and Student Service for Financial Aid (SSS) helps determine eligibility for different scholarship and loan programs. You should consider private school if it's at all feasible in your particular situation; you'll give your child many distinct advantages going forward in life.