About Private Schools

An in depth look at private schools, including history, a comparison to public education, and a glimpse of what's being taught. Learn about the benefits of attending private school, to both students and parents. Explore private schools options when living abroad, and debunk many of the myths regarding private school education.
View the most popular articles in About Private Schools:
You won't find several things in private schools which you will find in public schools. Large class sizes, no consequences for unacceptable behavior, uninvolved parents, and cuts to activities and programs are not things which you will commonly find in private schools.

Large class sizes
One of the reasons parents send their children to private school is for the individual attention small class sizes afford. You want your child to interact with her teachers. You don't want her to end up hiding in the back of a large class room. She's in private school because she wants to learn. So do her classmates.

When you have 12-15 students in a class, you really can teach. Discussions, analysis and explanations are much easier to facilitate with a smaller group. Everybody's opinion matters. From the teacher's perspective it is much easier to assess progress when you are teaching a small group. You can make eye contact with everybody instantly and determine whether they've got it and you can move on or whether you need to go back and reteach.

Small classes play to the reality that everybody learns differently. Students receive information in different ways. They process it differently. The skilled teacher is always assessing where her students are vis-a-vis the material being covered.

The other factor which is so important for effective teaching is that the class is homogenous in the sense that the students want to learn, they are not embarrassed to excel and they . . .read more
You want the best possible education for your child. The local school district is reasonably good but is facing some drastic budget cuts next year and, as far as you can tell, probably for many years after that. You don't want to sacrifice your child's educational opportunities, neither do you want to spend money needlessly on other educational options, such as private school or homeschooling.

 

Private school makes sense on so many levels because everything's there. Academics, activities, sports, facilities and staff are the key components of the package which every private school offers. In a private school the learning and the teaching are continuous. It doesn't matter whether your child is in the classroom or on the playing field, she will be learning.

Perhaps you are considering homeschooling. While homeschooling is doable, the onus is on you to track everything and make sure all the paperwork is completed and submitted and approved by local and state authorities. It's a lot of work. Indeed it is a full-time job. Now contrast that with the kind of life and activities which your child can have at private school:
 
 
So, what about some of those rumors you have heard about private school? Are they true? False? Are things changing? Are private schools different from what they were fifty years ago? Well, things have indeed changed over that span of time. Most of what the popular media says about private K-12 schools today can be charitably categorized as . . .read more
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 public schools

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 . . .read more
You would think that education in the United States has been public since colonials days. Not so. The earliest schools were private and religious schools. Only in the mid 19th century did governments begin to compel children to attend school. Public school. Here then is a brief timeline of private K-12 education through the years.
 
143 b.c. Chengdu Shishi High School was established in China.
69 Quintillian founded his school of rhetoric.
597 The King's School, Canterbury, England was established. It has the distinction of being the oldest private school in the world still operating.
1628 Collegiate School was founded in Manhattan, New York, USA. It is the oldest private school in America still extant and operating.
1799 Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi starts a school for orphans in Burgdorf. His writings on education inspired the study of pedagogy.
1809 Johann Friedrich Herbart establishes pedagogy as an discipline at the university at Gottingen.
1837 Friedrich Froebel creates Kindergarten or the Children's Garden. Kindergarten is the traditional first year of primary or elementary education for children in the United States.
1848 Stephen Girard's estate establishes Girard College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for poor, white, fatherless boys.
1874 The German Saturday School Boston was founded thereby established the first foreign language school in the U.S.
1887 The will of Bernice Pauahi Bishop founds and endows the Kamehameha Schools in Hawaii. Mrs. Bishop was the last direct descendant of Hawaii's royal family. She directed that the schools educate free of charge indigenous children of the Hawaiian islands.
1896 John Dewey establishes The Laboratory Schools in Chicago, Illinois, and thus begins the . . .read more
The purpose of this article is not to cast blame. Instead, I want to highlight the disturbing trend which many of us have heard and read about, namely, that enrollment in American Catholic schools has declined severely over the past 50 years.

The following is quoted directly from the National Catholic Education Association's Annual Statistical Report on Schools, Enrollment and Staffing.

 "U. S. Catholic school enrollment reached its peak during the early 1960s when there were more than 5.2 million students in almost thirteen thousand schools across the nation. The 1970s and 1980s saw a steep decline in both the number of schools and students.  By 1990, there were approximately 2.5 million students in 8,719 schools.   From the mid 1990s though 2000, there was a steady enrollment increase (1.3%) despite continued closings of schools.
 
Between the 2000 and the 2011 school years, 1,755 schools were reported closed or consolidated (21.5%). The number of students declined by 587,166 (22.1 %).  The most seriously impacted have been elementary schools."

Personally, it saddens me to see any private school in decline. It's even worse to discover that schools have closed. But the sheer magnitude of  these numbers is just plain scary. Let's examine some of the reasons why Catholic education finds itself in this state.

The Economy
The economy is a major factor. The Great Recession of 2008 has cost millions of people their jobs. If parents have to struggle just to make . . .read more
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ABOUT PRIVATE SCHOOLS