Choosing the Right Private School Education

You have made the decision to give your child a private school education. With so many options, how do find the right one to fit your child’s needs? The first steps are to consider your priorities, arm yourself with a lengthy list of questions and start setting up appointments. Your child’s education is too important not to take the time to choose the perfect fit.

Why Choose a Private School Education?

Those sending their children to private schools have a variety of motives behind their decision. For some the decision is based on moral values and religion. Others feel that a private education offers better academics and want their child in a smaller class that will offer the benefit of more personal attention.

It is important to have a list of education priorities before you start looking for a school. For example, if academics are more important to you than religion, but religion is more important to you than extracurricular activities, have academics be number one on your list, religion be number two on your list and extracurricular activities be number three on your list.

Private School Considerations

As part of choosing the right private school for your child, you will have to go through a process of elimination to get the number of schools you are considering down to a manageable number.

You might want to consider:

  • Finances. What can you afford to pay for an education at a private school? Ask if there are any financial aid or scholarship programs available to you. In addition, some states, including Arizona, Florida and Minnesota, offer breaks on income taxes if you send your kids to a private school.
  • Grade Levels. Do you want your child to have the option to stay through high school? Not all private schools offer grades kindergarten through 12.
  • Location. You will have to decide how far you are willing to drive. As you get closer to selecting a school, you can also inquire if there are any other students at the school who live in your area. You may then be able to carpool.

Questions to Ask

Additional questions to ask include:

  • Accreditation. Is the school accredited? If so, who is the accreditation body?
  • Instruction Model. What is the school’s education philosophy? Does it have a traditional or alternative approach to education? What is the school’s policy on homework, grading and testing?
  • Service Staff. What kind of staff does the school have? Is there a school nurse on location? Does the school have a psychologist or counselor? Is there a librarian on staff?
  • Principal or Headmaster Turnover. If the school burns through principals, the school may have a problem.
  • Teacher Turnover. What is the teacher turnover rate at the school? Typically speaking, private schools have higher teacher turnover rates than do public schools. In addition, smaller private schools have larger turnover than do larger private schools. However, a teacher turnover rate of 40% or more may be an indication of problems at the school.

Plan a Visit

As you get closer to choosing a private school, you should schedule an appointment with your candidate schools’ headmaster or principal.

  • Ask about student attrition. The longer that students stay at a school, the more likely the school is to be well-run.
  • Ask for names of parents who have children at the school for references.
  • Are the school’s textbooks up to date?
  • Does the school have enough computers? Does the school use the latest in technology in teaching?
  • Does the school have programs for parent involvement?
  • How does the school feel? Are children interacting, smiling and participating?
  • How does the school qualify their teachers? Does the school offer teachers additional training?
  • If your child has special needs, what types of programs does the school offer that will help?
  • Look at the grounds and facilities. How new are the facilities? How well are the facilities and grounds maintained? Is the library well-stocked with books?
  • What type of relationship does the school have with local businesses and the local community?
  • When are applications accepted? Is there a waiting list? If so, how long is the waiting list?

Making the Choice

You will have to narrow down your choices to a select few and then visit each school before you make a final decision. Do not get discouraged if the process takes a little longer than you would like. It is important to get an education for your child that matches the your requirements as closely as possible.