Ask the School Psychologist...|
by Beth Bruno, Ed.M., M.A.
Are Private Schools Better?
QUESTION: My husband and I have discussed sending our son to a private Catholic school because it seems like a lot of the nicer families we've met are sending their kids there. However, for financial reasons we think it would hurt us as a family, since we only have my husband's income to support us. I stay home with our kids.
The public school is new and seems to have good teachers. So far I don't have complaints, but there isn't much funding for extra programs because our town keeps voting against raising taxes. I'm also concerned about his peer group. There are many low income families in the area and I worry that bad behavior and manners will "rub off" on our son. Am I being over-concerned? Should I try to keep him with children who are brought up the same way we bring up our son?
ANSWER: There are hundreds of excellent public, private and parochial schools in this country. Tuition payments do not necessarily buy your child a better education than he or she would receive in a public school. No matter where you send your child to school, you will need to monitor the results, paying close attention to educational philosophy, curriculum, teaching style and skills, homework assignments, friendship choices and other variables of importance to you and your family.
Parents who keep themselves well informed are better prepared to advocate for changes when the need arises than those who do not. Most teachers and principals welcome parent/teacher partnerships, because they foster preventive problem solving before small problems escalate into bigger ones. If your child's school does not routinely inform you about its programs and welcome your participation in a variety of ways, from PTA meetings to parent conferences to parent nights to student presentations and more, raise the red flag! If your efforts to resolve unacceptable conditions or situations are ignored or rejected, you may want to consider educating your child in a different school or at home.
Having said that, keep in mind that every school has strengths and weaknesses within its programs and staff. When evaluating school placement for your child, do your homework.
Every public school in Connecticut, where I live, prints an annual Strategic School Profile, a school "report card" if you will, that is available to the public. The Profile contains information about student population, special education, test scores, academic offerings, extracurricular programs, school philosophy and more. My guess is that most states provide printed, up-to-date profiles about individual schools and their programs. State education associations for public, private and parochial schools can help parents gain access to this information. Consult reference books about Independent Schools and request brochures and other literature about the school's history, philosophy, academic performance and programs.
Arrange a visit to each school you're considering, not only to see its facilities but also to visit classes, preferably while the classes are in session! Make your child an active participant in the process. Even young children make many astute observations you might miss that could influence your decision.
Take as much care choosing a school for your child as you take choosing a job for yourself. Then monitor your child's progress every step of the way. I can't emphasize this last point strongly enough. Schools need partnerships with every parent in order to effectively serve the educational needs of each child.
by Beth Bruno
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Outstanding Public and Private Elementary Schools in the United States
by Richard W. Hostrop
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