Are Private Schools Right for You?
While public schools offer a general program for an all inclusive student population, private schools have greater flexibility in offering specialized programs that may benefit your child. Some private schools, for example, use art or science to teach each subject. Others take children on many outdoor day trips. Private schools have the freedom to create their own curriculum and methods of assessment, though many choose the standardized tests.
While there are public schools that have a specific focus, known as charter schools or magnet schools, these represent a very tiny fraction of American public schools, with only 3400 public charter schools in America in 2005 and 3100 magnet schools in 2001/2002.
Charter schools are run according to two principles: they operate as autonomous public schools and are exempt from many of the procedural requirements of other district public schools. If students fail to show academic progress, charter schools get shut down.
Magnet schools are public schools offering specific courses to students, and they serve students from a specific number of local zoning districts. Magnet schools can have tough requirements making for stiff competition for entrance. Requirements may include entry tests, auditions, and interviews. Sometimes these competitive entry requirements are used in combination with a kind of lottery system. The emphasis in magnet schools may be on a particular area of study or discipline while others have a broader focus.
Students from private schools rate higher performance scores than their public school counterparts on standard achievement tests. This is according to data collected by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Average scores of private school students were above those of public school students on 4th grade reading tests as well as on science and mathematics proficiency tests for the 4th, 8th, and 12 grades.
Private schools tend to have a more demanding curriculum than do public high schools. For example, private schools require an average 3.1 years of math studies, while public schools required only 2.7 years of math work. Private schools require 1.5 years of foreign language instruction while their public counterparts require only 0.5 years. About 40% of private schools assign some type of community service as a requirement for graduation, which is four times the rate for public schools offering community service, a mere 10%.
Private school students obtain a bachelor's or advanced degree by their mid-20s--twice as often as those students who attend public schools since this latter group is less liable to earn a post-secondary education.