How To Evaluate Private Elementary Schools | K-12 schools
Most parents know that there are decisions to be made about college and sometimes even high school. But the choices about public elementary schools versus private elementary schools take many by surprise.
Evaluating a private elementary school involves a range of factors beyond cost, including campus setting, diversity, educational philosophy, transportation, dress code, and learning style and personality. ‘a child.
Education experts say the best approach for parents is to take it step by step and do the homework necessary to understand all of the options.
“You make an investment for a number of years. You want to make sure that you are happy and that you find the best fit for your child and your family, ”says Pamela Tedeschi, a certified education planner who owns Tedeschi Educational Consulting in Maryland.
What to expect in private elementary schools
Deciding between public and private school can be as much a matter of individual preferences as it is geography or other factors, explains Tedeschi.
“Some counties have incredible services, like those for the gifted, the arts, or learning disabilities, so parents will have to compare what they could get at a private school,” she says.
Private schools often have smaller class sizes, which provide students with more individualized instruction and special programs such as foreign language immersion or a strong drama or music department.
“Each is mission-driven and unique,” says Myra McGovern, vice president of media at the National Association of Independent Schools, often referred to as NAIS, the largest association of independent schools in the country. “Families can find a school that matches their own philosophy.
Private schools offer many different educational philosophies, from religious education to Montessori and Waldorf schools, each with a different approach to teaching and learning.
For example, Jerry Mintz, founder of the Alternative Education Resource Organization, which helps parents learn about educational alternatives, is involved with democratic schools, which allow children to vote on how their schools are run.
One example he cites is New York Pono, which presents itself as an independent, democratic, urban and outdoor educational program. At Pono, students make more than 70 trips per year to destinations in and around the city.
“Members of our network believe that children are true natural learners,” says Mintz. “If you believe that, you are not forcing them to learn things that they are not interested in. ”
Start with a checklist
When evaluating private elementary schools, it’s a good idea to make a comprehensive checklist before determining top priorities, says Tedeschi.
It focuses on people first, examining teacher qualifications, teacher longevity and professional development. She also reviews the curriculum to see if it meets a child’s needs, builds on their strengths and challenges them. Physical considerations such as location, campus style, athletic facilities, and art rooms come next, along with commonly followed metrics such as class size and student-teacher ratio.
Parents, she says, are also increasingly wondering how schools are approaching:
- Diversity among the student body and staff.
- Community service programs.
- Management of classroom behavior.
- Wellness programs to combat anxiety.
- Rules regarding the use of technology during the school day.
In the era of COVID-19, Tedeschi is also encouraging parents to educate themselves on pandemic policies around vaccinations, face masks, social distancing and other protocols. “No one knows how long COVID will stay with us, so parents will want to ask these types of questions,” she says.
A family’s journey to private school
Crannough Jones, a single mother from Potomac, Md., Turned to a private school for her 11-year-old daughter when their public school district went virtual. Produced from private education herself, Jones found her local public schools “exceptional” but wanted to make sure her daughter had a classroom experience.
“I didn’t want my daughter to lose another year” because of the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic, Jones wrote in an email. “My daughter is super independent, but sometimes she needs mom to help her with her homework. As a working single parent, this sometimes became difficult. She rocked virtual schooling for their first three terms, but then began to lose interest. She started to miss homework. She would do them and not submit them. I knew it was time for a change.
To determine the best fit, Jones researched and visited schools within reasonable distance of commuting, analyzed their curricula and student outcomes, and applied to several. This fall, her daughter will go to a private school.
“Parents who are considering this move for whatever reason should do themselves a favor and research available offers… and just apply,” Jones said. “If they don’t get a favorable response from one for some reason, they might get a favorable result from the other.”
Jones is certainly not the only one exploring the options. In Los Angeles, LA Tutors 123, which offers one-to-one tuition, test preparation and admissions counseling, has seen a slight increase in the number of clients applying to private schools, said Eric Kim, senior manager of the program.
“They were quicker to revert to an in-person option and were able to comply with safety precautions like social distancing with greater ease due to larger classrooms and lower teacher-to-student ratios,” Kim wrote in an email.
“Many children who attended public school ended up working with private tutors to supplement their education,” he says. “With that in mind, families have found that private schools can actually be a better investment if they already devote their time and resources to additional tutoring. “
Cost: the biggest differentiator
For those who evaluate private schools, cost is often a major factor. The average annual tuition fee for Kindergarten to Grade 12 nationwide is $ 12,350 as of August of this year, according to EducationData.org. However, the costs of private schools can vary widely depending on location, the amount of help available, and many other factors.
The average annual tuition fee for elementary school nationwide is $ 8,700 and the average tuition fee for Catholic elementary school is $ 4,800. Of course, the tuition fees can get much higher. In Connecticut, which has the highest average private school costs in the country, the average elementary school tuition fee is $ 14,350 per year.
Tuition fees vary by school, and education experts say it’s important to ask for details. The price tag may or may not include such items as classroom materials, meals, and participation in athletic or other programs.
“If cost is an issue, ask about financial aid,” McGovern says. “Many schools offer financial assistance to families and families may not think they qualify. You never know unless you ask.
Explore private elementary schools
For parents who want to take a look at what’s available in the country, here is a sample of well-known private elementary schools:
- Silicon Valley Independent Basis in Sunnyvale, Calif., welcomes children from Transitional Kindergarten to Grade 12. A STEM-focused school, it describes itself as a place “where math lessons are the epicenter of student collaboration.”
- Brearley School is a K-12 girls’ school located in New York City. With around 760 students, it has a 6: 1 student / teacher ratio.
- Germantown Friends School is a Quaker school in Philadelphia serving approximately 1,070 kindergarten to grade 12 students. The 193 faculty members have an average of 15 years of teaching experience each, and 27 faculty and staff are alumni.
- Horace Mann School has an 18-acre campus in the Bronx, New York, and a smaller campus in Manhattan. It has nearly 1,800 students from kindergarten to 12th grade. The school owns the John Dorr Nature Laboratory, a 320-acre facility in Bethlehem, Connecticut.
- Lexington School, in Lexington, Ky., teaches approximately 600 students from kindergarten to eighth grade. About 16 after-school programs are offered each semester, ranging from a chess club to a Chinese language course.
- Maret School offers Kindergarten to Grade 12 education to 650 students on a single campus in Washington, DC It is over 100 years old.
- The new school in Fayetteville, Arkansas, sits on 26 acres that include a DIY studio and innovation center. It has approximately 400 students from kindergarten to grade 12.
- Polytechnic university in Pasadena, Calif., hosts approximately 870 students from kindergarten to grade 12. The performing arts program included 20 student performances during the 2019-2020 school year, almost half of which were in elementary grades.
- St. Mark’s School of Texas is a Christian boys’ school in Dallas serving Grades 1 through 12. Of its 127 full-time teachers, half are women and 30% have taught at Saint-Marc for more than two decades.
- University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in Chicago serve more than 2,000 students from kindergarten to high school. The school is part of the University of Chicago and directly benefits from its faculty and resources.