Private Schools vs. Public Schools

Private Schools vs. Public Schools

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In a recent report, a little over six million students were enrolled in a private school during the year 2003- 2004. That is roughly 11.5% of all students enrolled in schools.
But how do parents decide which private school is the best for their child? Parents consider many factors when choosing the right private school. They look at many factors such as the type of private school, class settings, academic curriculum, administration, accreditation and vouchers.

There are many different types of private schools. The most common private schools are Catholic, Religious Affiliated and non-sectarian. According to a report by the Private School Universe Survey of the school year 1999-2000, 48.6% of private school students attended Catholic private schools, 15.7% attended religious affiliated private schools and 15% attended nonsectarian.[1] Catholic private schools have greater diversity and larger enrollment than any other type of private school. [2] 85% of all private schools are affiliated with religious organizations.[3] According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “…in 1993-94, about one-quarter were Seventh-Day Adventist; 15 percent, Missouri Synod Lutheran; 10 percent, Episcopal; about 6 percent, Hebrew Day; 8 percent other Jewish; and the remainder, other religious groups.”[4] Religious affiliated schools can be found all over the United States. The main goal of religious schools is to implement religion in students’ studies. Nonsectarian schools are not affiliated with any religion. In contrast with religious schools, nonsectarian schools generally emphasize development or moral character in their studies than the study of religion.[5]

There are also specialized private schools that focus on a general interest which makes someone’s decision about a private school easier. A private school that focuses on a certain skill is called a trade or vocational school. These schools would be beneficial to students who already know what major they would like to pursue in the future. A trade/vocational school would be placed under a nonsectarian private school.

Reducing class size improves student achievement.[6] When students are in smaller class sizes the teacher is able to have more control over her class. The children receive more individualized attention from the teacher when the student- teacher ratio is less. The teachers can also identify learning disabilities sooner and engage family participation within the child’s education.[7] In a study conducted in 1985, The Tennessee Student/ Teacher Achievement Ratio, the state randomly selected students in grades kindergarten through third and assigned them to small classes; 13-17 students, and regular classes; 22-28 students.

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Students in the small classes achieved significantly higher than students in regular classes. According to a STAR graph, students in inner city, suburban, rural and urban schools scored higher in math and reading while in smaller class sizes than in regular sizes. STAR researchers found that students in all geographical areas and in all grade levels out performed students in regular sized classes.[8] Alan Krueger, economist of Princeton, researched the issue of small class sizes and its effect in education. He found that the achievement of students in small class sizes increased about 4% in the first year the students were placed in smaller classes.[9]

Not only are the classes smaller but the classes are non traditional groupings which is when the students are not necessarily all the same age. This is another asset to why parents like private school classroom settings. This allows the child to work with other students who share the same abilities rather than the same age.

The average private school recommends 0.5 years in computer science, 3.1 years of social studies, 2.5 years of English, 2.8 years of mathematics, 2.5 years of science and 1.1 years of a foreign language before graduation. [10] Private schools either met or exceeded the recommendation on Excellence recommendations for graduation. “A greater percentage of private schools also met all requirements than public schools.” Private school students also performed higher on the National Assessment of Education Progress tests in 2000 than public school students.[11]

Parents will want to be able to make a strong bond with teachers and administration and expect the teachers to enjoy working with their children. The Schools and Staffing Survey in 1999-2000 reported 66% of teachers in private schools had positive views about their jobs compared to only 54% of public school teachers.[12] “A majority of private school teachers also agreed that the administration was supportive and encouraging and that necessary materials were available.” 68% of private school teachers enjoy working at private schools because they are able to establish their own curriculum and lessons compared to only 44% of public school teachers. 63% of private school teachers felt they influenced student performance standards and 48% believed they had a positive affect on discipline policies. Less than 40% of public school teachers felt they had positive affects on these issues.[13]

Principals of private schools claimed their biggest goals to achieve were academic excellence (66%) and including religious lessons (64%) in their academic lessons. Principals also stated self-discipline as another top goal in private schools. Most teachers in private schools stated their Principals enforced school rules.[14] This is an asset to schools because it shows how involved the administration is with their student’s academic and social life.

Parents want to send their children to an accredited school. The National Association of Private Schools is based on integrity and excellence.[15] A private school wants to be accredited because the school wants to be known for academic excellence. Other accreditation programs are the National Council for Private School Accreditation and the National Private School Accreditation Program.

Accreditation is not permanent. Each private school needs to maintain their accreditation by growing and developing each year.

Vouchers are a loan provided by the government to aid parents who are paying for private education. They may cover partial or full cost of tuition. “…government pays the service provider under a voucher plan, however, parents choose the service provider.”[16] Through the use of vouchers, parents are able to send their children to any private school of their choice. Because public school systems are poorly funded, parents should have the right to decide if they want to send their child to a public school. If they do not want to send their child to a public school but are not wealthy than they have the option to receive vouchers for private education. With the success of many voucher programs, parents are able to send their children to private schools more now than ever.

The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program is the nation’s only traditional voucher system.[17] In the first four years of the MPCP it had funded 830 low income students who wanted to enroll in a private school with 3,200 grants.[18]

Whether choosing a Catholic, religious affiliated or nonsectarian private school, consider which type is appropriate for the child. Smaller class sizes help the child create a tight bond with their teacher and the student will learn more efficiently. The academic curriculum is a bit more challenging yet studies have shown students enrolled in private schools score higher on achievement tests. The administration of the private school should be enthusiastic about working in the institution and have positive views and goals about teaching. The private school should be accredited to show excellent academics. Look into voucher programs incase tuition is pricey. With the help of voucher programs parents are able to send their child to a private institution rather than a public school. With the help of these factors choosing a private school will be easier.

References

[1] http://www.capenet.org/facts.html

[2] A Brief Profile of America’s Private Schools, Pg.19

[3] www.encarta.msn.com

[4] http://nces.ed.gov/pubs/ps/97459ch3.asp

[5] www.encarta.msn.com

[6] Smaller Classes Not Vouchers Increase Student Achievement pg. 7

[7] Smaller Classes Not Vouchers Increase Student Achievement pg. 43

[8] Smaller Classes Not Vouchers Increase Student Achievement pg. 7

[9] Smaller Classes Not Vouchers Increase Student Achievement pg. 56

[10] Private School Graduation Requirements pg. 2

[11] http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/2002/analyses/private/sa05.asp

[12] A Brief Profile of America’s Private Schools pg. 13

[13] A Brief Profile of America’s Private Schools pg. 14

[14] A Brief Profile of America’s Private Schools pf. 17

[15] http://www.rsts.net/naps/how.html

[16] Privatization and Educational Choice pg. 20

[17] Private School Vouchers, pg.2

[18] Private School Vouchers, pg.2
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