The debate continues over the pros and cons of public versus private schools. Once you've determined that you want a private school for your child, however, how do you go about choosing a good private school? Consider the following points before you make your decision.
- Day School or Boarding School-Some private schools have daily hours much like public schools. In fact, private schools often follow a very similar school calendar throughout the year. However, there are also private schools which are classified as boarding schools. Your child will actually live on campus throughout the week and maybe even on weekends, coming home for periodic visits throughout the year. You'll need to decide what type of private school will suit your family's needs.
- Religious or Not-Many private schools are affiliated with a certain denomination or religious belief. For these schools, religion will play an important role in the daily curriculum. If you don't have a particular religious preference, then the religious focus of a particular school may not matter. If you want your child raised with particular beliefs, however, you'll need to choose a private school that emphasizes those beliefs. If you don't want any emphasis on religion, you'll need to choose a private school that does not offer religion as part of the curriculum.
- Curriculum-One of the arguments that many public school advocates use against private schools surrounds the subject of curriculum. This may be the most important decision that you'll consider regarding a private school. How does the private school's curriculum compare with that of the surrounding public schools? Are advanced placement courses offered? Is dual enrollment, offering college credit, an option? What types of electives are available? How many foreign languages are offered, and how many levels of each language are taught? Can students take technical courses, such as drafting, computer science, etc.?
- Testing-In many states, students are required to pass competency exams in the public school systems before they are allowed to graduate. What types of exams, if any, are required for the private school that you are considering?
- Teacher/Student Ratio-One of the advantages of private school is class size. Private schools generally offer smaller classes, which allow students more one on one instruction. What is the teacher/student ratio of the school? How large are the classes?
- Staff-Because many private schools pay their faculty and staff less than public schools, it's always a good idea to inquire about the training and experience of the faculty and staff. How long do teachers remain on staff? What are the requirements or qualifications for obtaining employment? How many teachers on staff hold certificates beyond the typical bachelor's degree?
- Extracurricular-You'll want to choose a school that will enrich your child's academic experience. This means choosing a private school that will enhance your child's talents. What type of athletic program is offered? How strong is the arts department? Does the school offer drama, chorus, or band as an elective? Are there any career tech classes, such as cosmetology, welding, carpentry, and automotive available?
- Costs-Finally, because a private school education can be expensive, you'll want to know all of the expenses. The school may offer some financial aid as well, including scholarships, so be sure to inquire about these. Don't forget to ask about refunds, in the event you have to remove your child from the school.