High School Issues

Learn more about high school academics, discipline policies and other issues relevant to private schools. Here we cover dress codes, explain the difference between AP and IB courses and discuss teen suicide. You’ll also find information on study abroad programs, codes of conduct and the best graduation gifts.
View the most popular articles in High School Issues:
We parents hold our breath as our children enter the teenage years. They face so many temptations. They cope with so much peer pressure. Popular culture bombards them with notions of what is acceptable and what's cool. What's a parent to do? Sometimes it seems as though we are swimming against the tide. A very strong tide.
 
Regardless of what pressures our teenagers face, our job as responsible parents is to teach our children that there will be consequences for their actions. Some consequences are positive. Others will be negative. For example, when our teenagers learn to drive, they are taught that it is illegal to run a red light. Or to drink and drive. Those consequences seem pretty obvious. Most teenagers, but not all, tend to obey those basic rules. That's the point. We try very hard to teach our teenagers that rules are there for a purpose. You perhaps many not agree with the reason for the rule. You do, however, have to be aware of the rules and obey them.
 

 
But what about the consequences our children might face for breaking the rules in a private school? You see, private and publc schools are very different when it comes to discipline. The difference between public and private school becomes even more noticeable when it comes to the handling of the big issues such as substance abuse among other disciplinary matters. There will be immediate consequences in most private schools for infractions of the . . .read more
Students sitting in rows of desks listening to a teacher lecture? You are not likely to find this scenario in a school which uses Harkness Tables. The brainchild of wealthy industrialist Edward Harkness, an Exeter alumnus, Harkness Tables are oval tables which seat 12-18 students together with their teacher. You cannot hide in the back of the classroom which uses Harkness Tables. That's the point. Engaged students learn.
 
In ancient times teaching was collaborative - think Socrates and Quintillian - but somewhere in our Victorian-Edwardian past we got off the rails and began lining children up in regimented rows of chairs and desks. Maria Montessori and Rudolph Steiner rebelled against this sort of regimentation. Their classrooms became what we would now call activity centers.
 
High school lab courses such as chemistry and physics have always been interactive and hands on. Discussion of findings and research are encouraged in that collaborative environment. Every member of the class has an opinion and a finding. That is the idea behind the Harkness Table. Every member of the class is encouraged to be an active participant. Because eye contact is a critical element of this style of learning, the Harkness Table's oval shape is ideal. It allows everybody around the table to see and be seen. Students and teacher interact. The teacher facilitates without dominating the lesson. He guides and steers the learning process. Maria Montessori would be thrilled.
 
Harkness Tables are widely used in prep . . .read more
Sometimes things don't go exactly as you'd like. For any number of reasons you find yourself starting theschool search process really late. Perhaps you have been transferred and are suddenly faced with finding a place for your child. It's May and the move is planned for July. You need a place for the fall. And fast. What do you do?

Contact the Schools
Contact the schools directly and see if a place is available. Phone the admissions department as soon as you can. That assumes, of course, that you know the schools in the area to which you are relocating. But what if you don't? What if you simply don't have time to do all that careful research? The solution is to hire an educational consultant to do the work for you. Consultants know private schools and have the contacts to find a place for a qualified student.

You May Be in Luck If There Are Places
Back to the original question: what if you have missed the deadlines for entry next fall? You probably will be out of luck when it comes to the most competitive schools. But there are plenty of very good schools which have rolling admissions or no fixed admissions deadline. In other words, they admit qualified applicants as long as they have places for them. The other reality is that no school likes to have empty places. But things do happen. Students are forced to drop out of school for all kinds of . . .read more
Discipline in private schools generally begins with a code of conduct. This is a document which is read and signed by parents and students at the time of admission to the school. It is part of the contract between student, parents and the school. Since you have already agreed to the school's code of conduct beforehand, when you commit an infraction of the code, you will be disciplined accordingly.

Gone are the days when discipline meant a couple of licks with a leather strap or a paddling on your buttocks. Corporal punishment is simply unacceptable in 21st century America. Indeed it is illegal in twenty-six states. Discipline is something which is defined by and meted out according to the contract between you and the school.

The important concept to understand is that as a student in a private school you are governed by contract law, not constitutional law. In other words, you do not have the same rights as a public school student. If you violate the terms of your contract, you will be dealt with accordingly.

Many schools have 'zero tolerance' policies when it comes to capital offences involving substance abuse, cheating, stealing and sex. You need to take your school's code of conduct seriously and abide by it or face the consequences. These consequences could be as serious and final as expulsion from the school.

 

Several private schools offer a whole academic year abroad. Still others offer a summer abroad. These are enrichment programs designed to expose students who participate in them to the culture and customs of the host country. Promoting global understanding is an underlying aim of all these 'abroad' programs.

School Year Abroad
The School Year Abroad program was started by Phillips Academy in 1964. It is now operated by a consortium of about 30 schools located across the nation. Basically SYA offers approximately 60 students in their junior or senior year the opportunity to spend an academic year abroad in China, France, Italy, Spain or India. Students stay with host families. They are able to maintain their academic standing with their home school while at the same time experiencing all that a year living abroad offers.

Summer Abroad
Several schools offer summer programs which take place in foreign countries. Here are two examples of the sort of thing being offered:

"Woodberry in Mexico brings students to Morelia, where they take a variety of classes in nontraditional subjects such as guitar, drums, pre-Hispanic Michoacan, human zoology, and Mexican cuisine. They also have opportunities to experience parts of Mexico few Americans see. Possibilities include tours of artisans’ workshops, a professional soccer match, an excursion to colonial towns, and an orphanage visit. In Ixtapa, students experience an “all-inclusive” resort along the beautiful Mexican coastline. Puebla and Oaxaca offer important archeological sites that teach much about indigenous cultures." ...read more
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High School Issues

Academics

A comprehensive look at high school academics. We cover grades, AP and IB courses, and the post graduate year. Learn the secrets of A+ students. Explore summer abroad programs, read interviews with experts and get valuable tips on excelling academically.

Discipline

A brief look into high school discipline policies. From codes of conduct to uniforms and dress code, we'll provide information on the latest practices in private schools.

Other Issues

From graduation gifts to preventing teen suicide, this section provides information on a variety of topics affecting high school students. Learn what to do when your child is expelled, you need financial aid or you’re looking for a teaching job. Get expert advice on protecting your teen from substance abuse, finding the right high school and handling personal technology on campus.