Occupying the special niche which they do, private schools often seem to mystify parents largely because so much misinformation exists. Hopefully this list of facts about private schools will help clear the air.
Late Night Show host David Letterman retires at the end of May 2015. With his famous Top Ten lists in mind, here is my list of Top Ten Facts About Private Schools.
10. There are schools for just about every need you can imagine.
Perhaps this should be number one on the list. In any case it is true. There are private schools for just about any need or requirement you can think of. Private schools come in all shapes and sizes. There are primary schools, K-8 schools, junior boarding schools, Roman Catholic schools, military schools, schools which offer programs for students with learning differences, schools in urban areas, schools out in the country, large schools, small schools, schools with instruction in languages other than English and on and on. With approximately 29,000 private schools in the United States the chances of your finding what you are looking for are pretty good.
9. Private schools are more affordable than you think.
Private school is an extra expense as well as being a substantial sacrifice for many families. On the other most private schools offer needs-based financial aid. The amount of aid is determined by the individual schools. Some schools even offer a tuition free education if your family financial situation is below a specific threshold.
8. Everybody participates in sports in private school.
Private schools like to say that they educate the whole child. Requiring everybody to participate in sports is one way to accomplish that goal. In most schools there is a set weekday afternoon when the entire school participates in sports. This is in addition to whatever intramural and varsity sport leagues are in play. In boarding schools Saturdays are usually given over to sports.
7. Most private schools are set up as not for profit organizations.
Probably about 90% of private schools are set up as 501 (c) (3) entities which are not-for-profit. In other words they don't pay federal, state and local taxes. In reality most not-for-profit private schools do make a contribution to the local governing authority to offset the cost of emergency services and other services provided by the local government. Because these schools are organized as not-for-profit institutions any gifts and donations which they receive are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law.
6. Most financial aid in private school is need-based.
Private schools do not give financial aid based on academic or athletics as a rule. Most schools make their financial aid based on your financial need. How do they determine what you can afford to pay? By requiring anybody requesting financial aid to submit the Parents' Financial Statement. The PFS is one of several factors most schools take into consideration in determining how much money they will award. Please remember that what one school will decide to award you may or may not be the same as another school will decide to award you. Each private school is an independent entity which sets its own policies and guidelines on everything.
5. Private school teachers are not unionized.
There are pros and cons to private school teachers not being unionized. However the important fact to note is that most private school teachers actually get to teach. Why? That's because class sizes in most private schools are small, in the 12-15 student range. Discipline is not usually an issue simply because each school has rules and codes of conduct in place. When students violate those rules, the consequences are swift and serious up to and including expulsion from school. Consequently private school teachers don't have to spend much of their time dealing with discipline issues. Add to that scenario the reality that most private school students are there to learn anyway and you can begin to understand why private school teachers are not unionized.
4. Private schools are not just for rich kids.
Years ago, like back in the 50s and 60s you might have been able to make a case for private schools being only for rich kids. Not any more. Most private schools pride themselves on having diverse communities these days. That's the way the world is. They want their school communities to reflect the kind of world in which their graduates will have to make a living.
3. Most private schools run summer sessions.
Private schools generally operate from September through early June. That leaves them with all their physical plant not being used for regular school. So, over the years most private schools have developed summer sessions which serve several purposes. The first is making good use of the campus and buildings which would otherwise be under-utilized. The second is introducing more students and families to the school and all that it entails. This is especially true of boarding schools. Parents and children who might have been skittish about attending a residential school tend to have a change of heart after attending a summer session at a boarding school. Summer sessions also prove invaluable for re-mediating academic issues as well as enriching experiences such as the arts and sports.
2. Most private schools offer very small class sizes.
For many parents the small class size is a huge selling point as they consider sending their children to private school. Most public school districts have had to cut back in just about every area. Class size seems to keep growing with classes of 30 or more becoming increasingly common. As a result a small class of 12-15 students sounds very appealing to most of us. You know that your child will not be just another number or end up sitting in the back of the class hiding out and being ignored.
1. Private schools admit who they want.
Yes, this is true. The admissions process at most private schools is determined by the schools themselves. They each have their own criteria in place. If your child appears to be a good fit from the school's perspective, she will be offered a place. On the other hand if the school decides that she is not a good fit and they do not offer her a place, there is not much you can do about it except move on and find a school which is a good fit for all parties.
Certain well-established, well-known boarding schools are in great demand. These schools are extremely selective. If you are thinking about applying to one or several of them, make sure your child offers everything they are looking for and then some. I recommend that you hire an educational consultant to guide you through the school selection process. He or she will know schools and what it takes to get into them.
If you have questions, don't hesitate to contact me via Twitter. @privateschl