When you compare public and private K-12 schools, there are several things in public schools which you will not find in private schools. Those points of comparison are points which parents consider when thinking about sending their children to private school. Large class sizes, lack of consequences for unacceptable behavior, lack of parental involvement as well as cuts to activities and programs are not things that you will commonly find in private schools as a rule.
Large class sizes
Teaching a large class of students, say, 30-40 students of any age, creates all sorts of classroom management issues for even the most experienced teachers. Maintaining control over a large number of students is possible but decidedly difficult. As a result, one of the reasons parents send their children to private school is for the individual attention which small class sizes afford. It is relatively easy for a child to hide in a large class. That's not so easy to do when you have 12-15 students sitting around a table with their teacher. After all, you want your child to interact with her teachers. You don't want her to end up hiding in the back of a large classroom. You sent her to private school so she could learn.
When you have 12-15 students in a class, you really can teach. Discussions, analyses, 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.
This video from Rocky Hill School, East Greenwich, Rhode Island shows a typical small class in a private school
The other factor which is so important for effective teaching is that the class is homogeneous in the sense that the students want to learn, they are not embarrassed to excel and they are unafraid to ask questions. Lots of questions. With the small class size, you can answer as many questions as you have to in order to teach the subject material.
No consequences for unacceptable behavior
Enforcing discipline in public school is never easy. Teachers have to follow the approved processes. Yes, the major offenses are dealt with expediently but the reality is that the smaller disciplinary matters can be very time-consuming to process. On the other hand, if you break the rules in private school, you will face the consequences. Very swiftly. The rules and the consequences for breaking those rules vary from school to school. Private schools value their independence. One key aspect of that independence is being able to write their own rules and then enforce them.
Because private school students, parents, and the school are bound by the contract which they sign - although, for legal reasons, only parents and the school sign the contract - there is not the same due process which can delay and prolong the resolution of a disciplinary matter as you will find in public schools. The private school will mete out justice swiftly according to the protocols and code of conduct which have been acknowledged by the student and parents in writing. None of the consequences will be a surprise or unexpected.
This video gives you an idea of the sort of training public school teachers receive about discipline.
They are clearly spelled out in published documents. Furthermore, most schools will hold extensive orientation and refresher training about the school's explicit expectations as embodied in its code of conduct.
Lack of parental involvement
Private school parents are involved with their school. That is part of the understanding between you and the school when you send your child to a private school. There are many ways to help out a school. Schools understand that not every mother or father can be on hand during the day to help with class trips or activities. But there are plenty of other ways for you to help out. Parental involvement truly makes your child's education a shared experience.
Your child's education is a partnership of three: school, student, and parents. That extends to academics as well. You will be expected to meet regularly with your child's teachers in order to discuss her progress. You will receive frequent updates as well. "Out of sight. Out of mind" will not be possible when your child goes to private school.
Cuts to activities and programs
I read more stories about state and local funding for our public schools being reduced rather than increased. Consequently, administrators and school boards have to make cuts somewhere. The very last thing anybody wants to cut is teaching and teachers. But eliminating funds for extracurricular activities and/or sports often is the least painful way in which to reduce expenditures.
Private schools pride themselves on the broad range of extracurricular activities they offer. Review the profiles of the schools on Private School Review. Look at the activities they offer. And most of these are supervised and led by a member of staff too. Some of these clubs and activities were established decades ago and have their own rich history and traditions.
The short video tour of The Westover School, Middlebury, Connecticut, offers a look at all the many and varied aspects of boarding school life.
Athletics go to the heart of most private school's philosophies. A sound mind in a healthy body is a precept most private schools live by. Sports are integrated into the school schedule. Lots of different sports too. Again, review the school profiles on this site to see the great variety of sports activities offered. Private schools, depending on their size, will offer team sports and individual sports and several different levels both intramural and interschool. Many schools belong to athletic leagues in their region and/or state. The friendly competition between houses within the school and with teams from other schools is a cherished tradition in most private schools.
Private schools make the artistic activity an integral part of their curriculum just like athletics and academics. Musical ensembles and productions are a regular feature of most private schools' calendars. These musical activities are held in high esteem because they are important and not an afterthought. Musical activities such as choirs and vocal ensembles, orchestras, and bands enrich the life of a private school community.
Private schools tend to have fewer students than public schools. Most private boarding schools, for example, have 300-400 students in grades 9 through 12. That smaller student population combined with other features such as small class sizes appeals to many parents who want their children to be able to learn with minimal distraction. It is reassuring to know that your child is not just a number. It is encouraging to know that she will learn how to balance her academics with extracurricular activities. The mandatory sports programs which most private schools have in place ensure that she learns the importance of exercise and other physical activity.
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