Of all the schools in the U.S., private schools account for only 24%, and enroll just 10% of all kindergarten through 12th grade students. Yet, there is much debate among parents who are concerned about the learning standards for their children. These parents want to make sure that the school their children attend is challenging, and also excellent at preparing students for the next step in their education. Whether that takes the form of a charter, private, or preparatory school, the difference is the same: the parents are debating the merits of removing their child from the public school system to pursue a specialized course of study.
Can Prep Schools Be an Indicator of Future Success?
If there was clear and unequivocal data indicating that every child that attended one of the many prep schools in the U.S. went on to a great college, there would be a a surge in admissions in all the best kindergartens. As such, there is some data that supports the idea that prep schools make some positive improvement for most students. The best data comes from testing the student at the beginning of their education, and at the transition from high schooler to college student.
Do Smaller Classrooms Create a Better Learning Environment?
It is said that on average, public schools are double the size of a private school. About 86% of private schools actually have fewer than 300 students. This enables the school to average 12.5 students per teacher, compared to public schools in which a classroom averages 15.4 students per teacher. Smaller classroom sizes are thought to enable more one-on-one learning between teacher and student. The idea is that it is less likely that a child who is struggling with the material will fall behind.
What Do the Parents Think of Their Child’s Education?
The student needs to feel confident and safe when they’re in the classroom. The confident portion is in their ability to perform the work successfully. In one study by the Fraser Institute in 2007, the dedication of the teachers to helping their students grow was the defining motivator for about 91% of parents. A great teacher makes a difference whether their classroom is in a public or private school. Prep schools may simply place a higher premium on teacher performance. This is not to say that public schools don’t care about teacher performance, just that there are many teachers at each school, and should be evaluated before sweeping accusations or praises are made.
Just How Much Better Does a Child Comparatively Perform?
No matter what your stance on testing might be, it is still a relatively unbiased form of determining the difference between schools. For kindergarteners who attended a quality preschool program, that translates to a 21% increase in reading and math scores. For high school students attending public school, the average SAT scores are: 497 in reading; 489 in writing; and 514 in math. Private school students averaged: 541 in reading; 550 in writing; and 579 in math. That’s a difference of nearly 50 points in some categories.
Does Your Child’s Safety at School Keep You Up at Night?
One of the benefits of private school apparently is an increased feeling of safety. While some schools admit whomever applies, other private schools do have an entrance examination. Frequently, these schools also have higher expectations for student behavior as well. For high schools especially, this can be reassuring to those parents who worry about bad influences that can happen on school grounds such as inappropriate behavior surrounding charged themes such as sex and violence.
The debate between private and public schools will likely continue on for years. While there is some conclusive evidence that some students are performing better at private schools, the data cannot be applied to every situation. Some private schools have dedicated teaching staff, whom are committed to providing students with the best education while still meeting or exceeding state standards. There are some public school teachers also doing their best with the same goal in mind. The real difference comes down to whether your child has a great teacher, or an overall great school.