Michael Winerip's article
on the cheating scandal in Philadelphia public schools
underscores one of the intrinsic differences between public and private schools. Private schools do not have to teach to the test. Public schools do. That is as a result of The No Child Left Behind
legislation which required that mininum test scores be attained, among other requirements. The consequences for not achieving the benchmarks are serious. The net result is that some unethical teachers and administrators are alleged to have cooked the books in the Philadelphia schools. And they got caught. A similar situation occurred in Atlanta's
Private schools are not covered by NCLB. Consequently they do not have to teach to the test. So how are private schools held accountable? By you their customers. Parents and students. Simply put, if you are not satisfied with the job your private school is doing, you have the freedom to withdraw your child and put her in another school.
Private schools meet or exceed state academic standards.
The curriculum which each private school uses is chosen by the school. It is not dictated by the state or some other authority. The states generally require high school graduates to have a certain number of credits in core subject areas. But how those core subjects or any other subjects are taught is entirely up to the school. (That's why it is so important for you to choose a school whose teaching methods and curriculum most closely align with your requirements and educational philosophy.)
Now, remember that private schools run the gamut from traditional curriculum and teaching methods to progressive curricula and teaching methods. That gives you a host of options as you seek to match your child's needs. While private schools do not, as a rule, teach to state or national states in order to comply with NCLB, most will prepare your child for
national and international examinations such as the Advanced Placement
exams and the International Baccalaureate
examinations. Both of these programs require several years of intense course work in order to be successful in the examinations which take place in the latter part of your child's senior year.
I have laid all of this out in detail simply to make the point that both AP and IB examinations are virtually tamper proof. The examinations are administered locally but marked by independent professionals far removed from the school your child has attended. In other words, even if they wanted to, the local staff cannot tamper with the results.
Zero Tolerance Policies
The other factor which stifles most attempts at cheating is the zero tolerance policy which your school will have in place. Cheating is, in many cases, grounds for expulsion depending on the severity of the offence. Children mimic the behavior of others. Especially adults. If they see you cheating on your taxes, they will see nothing wrong with cheating on their math
test. That's why private schools take great pains to teach and enforce ethical behavior.
There are rules to be followed in the school community just as there are laws which must be complied with in the community outside the school. Teaching a child to be responsible is not something which can be taught in one semester. You start at a very early age and gradually widen and expand the child's understanding of the concepts of right and wrong, good behavior and bad behavior, so that he is able to become a responsible member of society.
Private schools teach academics and we parents expect great results in that area. But the overarching purpose and aim of most private schools is to shape the character of their students. Cheating is not tolerated. Accepting responsibility for one's actions is encouraged and expected.