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10 Facts About Private Schools

Facts Schools Want You to Know

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Brandeis Hillel Day School

Gauss Campus at Brandeis Hillel Day School

Photo © Brandeis Hillel Day School
Here are 10 facts about private schools which the schools want parents to know. If you are considering sending your child to private school, this data and information will answer some of the important questions.

1. Private schools educate over 6 million students.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics there were approximately 29,000 private schools in the U.S. in 2008. Together they service approximately 6.1 million students. Private schools cover just about every need and requirement you can imagine. There are special needs schools, military schools, religious schools, Montessori schools and Waldorf schools. Thousands of schools focus on high school and offer college preparatory courses. About 350 schools are residential or boarding schools.

2. Private schools offer great learning environments.
It's cool to be smart in a private school. The focus in most college preparatory schools is on getting ready for college studies. Advanced Placement courses are offered in most schools. You will also find IB programs in about 40 schools. AP and IB courses require well-qualified, experienced teachers. These curricula are demanding college level studies which allow students with high scores in the final exams to skip freshman courses in many subjects.

3. Private schools feature extracurricular activities and sports as an integral part of their programs.
Most private schools offer dozens of extracurricular activities. The visual and performing arts, clubs of all kinds, interest groups and community service are just some of the extracurricular activities you will find in private schools. Extracurricular activities complement the academic teaching which is why schools emphasize them. They are not something extra.

Sports programs combine with academic work and extracurricular activities to develop the whole child. Most private schools require their students to participate in some sport. Teachers are also required to be involved by coaching a sport. Because sports and extracurricular activities are such an integral part of a private school program, you rarely see cuts in these areas as we have seen in public schools when budgets get tight.

4. Private schools provide constant supervision and have zero tolerance policies.
One of the appealing aspects about sending your child to private school is that she cannot fall through the cracks. She will never be a number at a private school. She won't be able to hide in the back of the class. In fact, many schools use the Harkness style discussion format for classroom teaching. 15 students sitting around a table have to be involved in the discussions. Dormitories in boarding schools typically are operated family style with a faculty member being the surrogate parent. Somebody is always around keeping a watchful eye on things.

Another feature of private schools is that most have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to serious infractions of their rules and codes of conduct. Substance abuse, hazing, cheating and bullying are examples of activities which are unacceptable. The result of zero tolerance is that you can be assured that you are placing your children in a safe environment. Yes, she will still experiment but she will understand that there are serious consequences for unacceptable behavior.

5. Private schools offer generous financial aid.
Financial aid is a major expense for most schools. Even in tough economic times, schools have made assisting families who want to send their children to private school a top priority in their budgets. Several schools offer a free education if you meet certain income guidelines. Always ask the school about financial aid.

6. Private schools are diverse.
Private schools got a bad rap in the early part of the 20th century as being bastions of privilege and elitism. Diversity initiatives began to take hold in the 1980s and 1990s. Schools now proactively search for qualified candidates regardless of socioeconomic circumstances. Diversity rules in private schools.

7. Private school life mirrors family life.
Most schools organize their students into groupings or houses. These houses compete with each other for all kinds of things besides the usually sports activities. Communal meals are a feature of many schools. Teachers sit with students developing close bonds which are such a valuable feature of private school education.

8. Private school teachers are well-qualified.
Private schools value teachers who have degrees in their chosen subject. Typically 60 to 80% of private school teachers will have an advanced degree as well. Most schools require their teachers to be licensed to teach.

Most private schools have 3 semesters or terms in their academic year. Many prep schools also offer a PG or post-graduate year. Some schools also offer study programs in foreign countries like France, Italy and Spain.

9.The small size of most private schools allows plenty of personal attention.
Most college prep schools have about 300-400 students. This relatively small size allows students plenty of individual attention. Class and school size matters in education, as it is important that your child not fall through the cracks and just be a number. Small class sizes with student-to-teacher ratios of 12:1 are fairly common.

The larger schools usually include prekindergarten through 12th grade. You will find that they actually consist of 3 smaller schools. For example, they will have a lower school, a middle school and an upper school. Each of these divisions will have 300-400 students across four or five grades. Personal attention is an important part of what you are paying for.

10. Private schools are sustainable.
More and more private schools are making their campuses and programs sustainable. It has not been easy for some schools because they had older buildings which were not energy efficient. Students in some private schools even compost waste food and grow some of their own vegetables. Carbon offsets are part of sustainability efforts too. Sustainability teaches responsibility within the larger global community. That is an important lesson schools want their students to learn.

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