What Are the Pros and Cons of Private School?
We’ve all heard the idiom, “Variety is the spice of life.” The phrase, which comes from a 1785 poem by William Cowper entitled ‘The Task,’ has been applied to many different things. One more thing it can be applied to is private schools.
According to Niche’s data, there were 24,990 private pk-12 private schools operating that have at least 11 students. That number accounts for 21% of all U.S. schools. And while many might think religion when they consider private school, nearly 30.5% of private schools are non-religious.
So, for parents who are considering sending their child to private school, options abound. Yet, before they get to that point, parents need to consider if private school is right for their child and their family. Like any major decision, it’s wise to consider the pros and cons of private school before moving forward.
An Abundance of Options
As already stated, there are numerous private schools to choose from. With each school choosing its own direction, that means their approaches to education and goals will vary.
“Parents should consider who their child is, what they want for him/her and their family and then find a school that can respond to that in a close way,” says Alexandra Mayzler, founder and director of Thinking Caps, a boutique tutoring and coaching business located in New York City. Mayzler, who works with private school children and has consulted on curriculum and study skills for private schools, adds that parents should look for a school that will further their child’s development.
Sometimes that means a Montessori school, or a school with a religious focus, an all-boys or all-girls school, or even a boarding school, just to name a few examples. The sheer variety of types of private schools give parents more ability to choose an environment based on their child’s strengths, interests, learning style or even personality.
Ability to Set Culture
Every organization, or even family unit, has its own culture. While successful leaders strive to create a particular culture, doing so becomes more challenging as the grouping expands.
Private schools tend to be on the smaller side, which allows them to more successfully maintain the culture set by the principal and executive board. That culture is typically the reason the school in the first place. “They can have a tighter, specific, and unique culture, which can be maintained because they are more compact,” says Blake Jensen, founder of SD Higher Scores, and test prep tutor with over 10 years of experience teaching and tutoring high school math and science.
Jensen, who also attended private school, adds that such schools have better success at buy in of the culture. “Everyone chooses to be there and does so, at least partially, based on the culture.”
Ever take up an issue with a large institution? It seems like everyone wants to pass the buck and explain, “it’s not my department,” or “there’s only so much I can do,” or “I wish I could help you, but I can’t.”
Since private schools tend to be small, there are fewer levels of bureaucracy to deal with. In addition, parents/guardians are paying for their child to be there, so they rightfully expect to be heard. “Private schools may be more accountable to parents,” says Adam Cole, co-director of Atlanta based, Grant Park Academy of the Arts.
Cole, who has taught and attended private school, notes, “Parents may have more success petitioning for change at private school because of the accountability factor.”
The most obvious drawback to private schools is that they often come with heavy price tags, whereas public schools are free. But even if cost is not an issue for your family, there can still be potential issues when it comes to private school:
While so many options for private schools may seem heavenly, the devil can be in the details. Finding the right school for your child can be challenging, and selecting the wrong one can lead to a difficult situation.
“Private schools can’t be everything for every family and every child,” says Mayzler. “Because private schools are so focused and specific, it can be a problem when a mismatch happens.” Children grow and change and can go from fit to misfit for a particular school, leaving them on the outside looking in.
Can Be Insular
Because private schools are formed around a specific culture, they a draw particular type of person/family who is attracted to the culture. Combine this with the fact that private schools can be pricey, and diversity can be lost. Private schools and their small communities can also be insular.
“Sometimes, there’s a lack of diversity of thought at private school, and you can get a kind of sameness,” says Cole. “Because people are in their own little insular world, they may form opinions that are not necessarily accurate.”
Uneven Quality of Teachers
On average, private schools pay teachers less and offer fewer benefits than public schools do. This can lead to uneven quality of teachers at private schools for hard to staff subjects.
“Some private schools have trouble getting and keeping good science and math teachers,” says Jensen, “since the pool of qualified applicants is smaller.” Adding to the potential uneven quality of teachers, qualification standards are looser as private schools generally do not require teachers to be certified.
The Bottom Line
Private schools have a great deal to offer. Yet, they have their negatives as well. For those parents/families that find the right private school for them and their child, the pros will almost certainly outweigh the cons.
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