Finding Schools

Learn more about how to find and evaluate private schools. Find out why price should not be your only consideration. Get valuable advice on how to save time and money when choosing a school. Learn more about ranking schools and why it may not work.
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One of the main reasons many of us parents look at private schools is because we want our children to receive a religious education. I define a religious education for the purposes of this article as an education which adheres more or less to the religious beliefs which we hold dear. In other words if you are Roman Catholic, you will want to think seriously about educating your child in a Roman Catholic school.
 
It has been several years since I examined the data on religious schools in the National Center for Education Statistics Private School Universe Survey. This survey covers academic year 2011-2012.  So I was fascinated to see that out of the 30,000 private schools in the United States approximately 21,000 were described as religiously-oriented schools. About 9,000 schools were what we call non-sectarian or not affiliated with any specific religion.  By comparison there were approximately 99,000 public schools in the 2011-2012 academic year. That would mean that private K-12 schools are educating approximately 30% of school-age children.
 
Let's review the 25 religious categories which the Private Universe Survey documents.
 
Roman Catholic: The Roman Catholic Church has always taken its educational mission seriously. As a result about 7,000 K-12 schools educate 1.9 million students. Catholic schools include parochial schools which are largely K-8 schools and diocesan high schools. These schools are mostly organized and administered at the local and regional level. Add to this mix hundreds of schools which were established by the various religious orders - Jesuit, . . .read more
One of the best things about private schools is that there is a school out there somewhere which is just right for your educational objectives, whatever those might be. As you begin to draw a picture of the kind of school which you would like your child to attend, you just might discover that the structured environment and leadership training for which military schools are well-known is just what you are looking for.

So, what about military schools? When might you consider sending your son or daughter to a military school? Let’s settle a couple of things before we proceed: military schools are not places you send a child with discipline or other issues. They are not reform schools or schools for troubled youth. (If a professional such as a psychologist or psychiatrist recommends that your child attend a therapeutic school, you will have plenty of options for that purpose.)Military schools are genuine institutions of learning with a specific focus: military training. Secondly, military service is not required when you attend a military high school. If your child decides that military service is a career path which she wants to pursue, then a military school will have given her a good start.

Take a few minutes to see what a day in the life of a cadet at Hargrave Military Academy is like.
 

 
If the following are things you are looking for in a private school, maybe a military school is right for . . .read more
Thinking about sending your child off to private school? Then you will need to decide which educational philosophy and approach works best for you. What it really comes down to is whether you want to send your child to a school that uses a traditional approach to teaching or one that uses a non-traditional approach.
 
In the public school world a traditional school is a regular public school and a non-traditional school is a charter school. That's not what I am discussing here with respect to private schools. The concept of a private school as an independent largely self-financing corporate entity does not change. You and I are going to focus on what is taught in the classroom and how it is taught.
 
The early years
 
Your child's age is a major factor when it comes to choosing an educational approach. For example, if you send him to a Montessori school as a toddler, you are exposing him to a non-traditional approach to education. It is an excellent approach and highly regarded. But non-traditional nonetheless. Start your child off in a Montessori, Waldorf or Reggio Emilia school and you will lay solid foundations for learning in later life. But visit a traditional private primary school and you will see a quite different approach to early education.
 
This short video compares and contrasts a progressive primary education with a traditional primary education.
 
 
Obvious differences will be the dress code. Uniforms are required at many traditional religious schools. The curricula follow . . .read more
You have seen the articles in major publications such as Forbes and Chicago Magazine. "Top 10 Prep Schools" or "Best Private Schools in ____" These lists invariably contain the names of schools which are familiar. But are these schools the right ones for you? Let me explain why I believe that ranking private schools makes no sense for parents like us who are looking for the right school for our children.
 
A flawed premise
 
Ranking private schools is intrinsically flawed from get go. Why? Because each private school is a unique entity. The essence of being a private school is that it does its own thing. It accepts the students it wants to accept. It teaches the curriculum it wants to teach. It teaches that curriculum the way it wants to teach. Each private school has its own mission statement, philosophy, code of conduct, programs and traditions. So how is it possible to compare apples to oranges? That is essentially what ranking private schools attempts to do.

For example, look at all the features of Shattuck-St. Mary's. Maybe another school has some of the same features. Maybe it doesn't. It is up to you to determine what you expect from a private school.
 
 
Yes, you can compare things like the number of AP courses, varsity sports, extracurricular activities and so on. But you normally will make those comparisons when you are developing a short list of schools . . .read more
Ten years ago choosing a private school was at a crossroads. Back then you had the traditional ways of finding schools and finding out more about them. You asked around. You contacted schools you knew about. You bought a directory of private schools, if indeed one was available. (I still have a vintage copy of The New York Times Guide to New York City Schools written by Grace and Fred Hechinger published in 1968.) Or you hired an educational consultant.

So, let's take a look at how you can save time and money choosing a private school for your children in 2012.

 

  2000 2012
Finding schools Books
Word of mouth
Consultant
Internet searches
Directory listings
Association listings
Finding out more about schools Request catalogs
Call the schools
Consultant
Online tours
YouTube
Social media

 

In 2012 we literally have more information - and misinformation - than we can assimilate. Assuming that you are savvy enough to use reputable sources, you shouldn't have much difficulty finding schools. Here are some places to look.

Directories and Associations
Start with a listing of private school directories and associations like the one we have on this site. Then drill down to the state or regions in which you are interested. Most of these directories and associations have lists of member schools. Use filters to exclude schools not of interest.

The NCES site offers an exhaustive list of every private school in the nation. But it's interface is clunky.

Our read more
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