Private Schools or Public Schools - is there really a difference?

Jackie - posted on 02/22/2010 ( 26 moms have responded )

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Let me start by stating that I know school systems in other countries are set up differently, everything I am about to say and may say in subsequent posts is based on my knowledge of the US school system, and in particular in northeaster US.

Would you rather send your child to a private school or a public school....assuming you had a choice between the two? Do you think there's a difference? DO you think one is better than the other? Is anyone doing the opposite of how they were educated?

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[deleted account]

Geralyn, I have to say I agree with much of your post. But many of the private schools where I live are so poor. They only exist to serve those that don't want to send their children to school with other certain children. If I lived in almost any other district in my area, my kids would go to a private school, but I would be very picky out which one.

But I can't help but think about children whose parents simply cannot afford private school. I'm sure that many parents whose children attend these failing schools would send their kids elsewhere if they had a choice. This may be very "idealist" of me, but what if every parent sent their kids to public schools. The involved parents and the parents with money would be working to improve upon the public schools and that would greatly improve education for everyone. A good education wouldn't be reserved for just the elitist or the ones that can afford it, it would be extended to the poor, the minorities and not to mention those children with dead beat parents that wouldn't otherwise have another chance in this world.

But the difficult balance is trying to decide if you do what is best for your individual child or what is best for society. I would chose what is best for my child, while fighting from inside the public school system as a teacher.

And to respond to the issue with advanced children never being challenged, there are ways within a classroom that good teachers handle this situation. I had a teaching partner. We split our two classes into two new classes based on ability and this helped many of our students. I also had small groups within my classroom. The three groups received different assignments and homework based on their level. They also were assigned different books to read. And when I met with the groups, I taught in three different ways to cater to their needs. Not perfect, I admit, but it is a start. And every school I taught in did this.

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Jackie - posted on 02/25/2010

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I think Geralyn really narrowed it down though away from the education. I think we all agree there are absolutely good and bad schools, both public and private out there...and depending on your area they may sway one way or another and in some places they are completely equal. But to me the two big differences that can't be found in public schools are:

1. In private schools the teachers have the ability to push harder without complaints getting in the way and making them stop. She is right, you get homework from day 1, and alot of it. But y'know what I had GREAT study skills at a very early age b/c of it. I know for a fact that a public school in my area...in 4th grade...as a policy doesn't give more than 30 minutes of homework a nite!!!! To me thats just crazy, and the sole reason is because "it would be to much for the kids". That among many other similar types of stories are just a complete joke in terms of what I would call an education useful enough to get you somewhere.

2. As I stated I think in my original post, even if the education is 1:1 with the public schools, which in some communities it is, I would prefer the private catholic schools b/c the religious aspect of it really hammers home not so much memorizing bible stories at all...but more importantly values, morals, manners, responsibilities, consequences etc etc etc.And I find this stuff equally as important (if not more in some cases) as a solid education. And this isn't accomplished in public schools b/c a teacher does something "tough' and all these parents who like to coddle their kids will call up and complain and thats the end of that.

Julie - posted on 02/25/2010

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Also I've seen many times where private schools can at times slide under certain state rules/requirements; coming from the point of a teacher all teachers are trained the same....if they turn out to be a "bad" teacher it'd be just coincidence as to whether they were ata public or private school, some people just plain make the wrong career choice, I will always believe in the sincereity and amount of effort put in by public school employees in general even when the private schools have more access to fiancial backing/supplies. I've worked in Maine and Fl and have personally witnessed the efforts of the school employees here in norteastern Iowa and fully believe and trust all of them. I do wish that religion could be more involved but again something that should fall mainly on the shoulders of the family/home enviroment to provide such a solid and neccessary foundation

Julie - posted on 02/25/2010

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I taught middle school for 2 years, i saw parents use private school as a crutch for a child not able to conform in public school.....I've also seen where either is fine. I guess ultimately as long as the school is good but I do believe in the public school system....unless the school system is so messed up that the kids only have a choice of 0-2 ex cirricular activities/"non-academic/"artsy" classes or they try to shove 40 kids in a elem. classroom (which still is more issues within that particular system and NOT public schools in general). I generally believe that most kids will succeed and do well overall.....I also feel that the root for any success (foundation for beliefs/character come from the home..therefore a lot of any problem would fall on the home/parents first (barring any serious medical/mental issues). we are lucky here in NE Iowa; even our autistic son has progressed nicely in his years since k (now in 3rd). I'd be leary of any school system public or private that excludes music/the arts from their curriculum even the fostering of sports/clubs all have value in the well rounded development/fostering academic successes with any child

[deleted account]

I wasn't specificly talking about you understanding my point. I was talking about people in general. :)

Mary - posted on 02/24/2010

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I really think it varies, depending on where you live. Where I grew up, there are is a large number of prvate schools, particulary Catholic schools. Some are better, or more academically strong, than others. There are a few that are nothing more than elitist finishing schools for students who are not particularly bright, but whose parents have a lot of money. And some are more geared for students with learning disabilities, and have smaller, more focused programs to meet the special learning needs of their pupils.

As a result, many of the public schools are a bit sub-standard. Their are a few, of course, that are exemplary, and their are a growing number of magnet schools to meet the needs of the more gifted public school students.



Where my sister lives, in Northern Va, there are not as many private schools. Their public schools are outstanding, so very few parents, regardless of financial standing, send their children to private schools. The public options are simply better, unless you feel very strongly about a religious (mostly Catholic) education.



I myself am the product of 12 years of private, Catholic schools. The ones I attended were not parochial (meaning supported by the archdiocese), and therefore a little more independent of the Church itself. Both were very selective academically, and had a curriculum that was very demanding. I know that when I went to college, I was heads and tails ahead of the vast majority of people I was sitting in class with. 100% of my high school's gradutes go on to attend a 4 year college, and about 10-15% go to Ivy League schools. (these numbers were true in 1988, when I graduated, and remain so today). I am still very active in the alumnae, and have every intention of sending my daughter to the same schools I attended.

Geralyn - posted on 02/24/2010

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Sara, I definitely tried to distinguish - quality private schools. Not just any. Your point was well taken that there are poor quality private schools. WIth kids coming in from other schools, even other public schools, it can be eye-opening - some of the public schools are so much more rigorous than others in terms of what they expect.



One point is that many times the public school teachers hands are tied because, again, they have to serve all. For example, I went to a private school for 1st and 2nd grade then went to public school for grades 3-5 before going back to private. In the private school's 1st grade, we had a minimum of 2 hours of homework every day after school. If a public school teacher were to give that much homework to 1st or 2nd graders, I can guarantee that there would be calls and complaints by parents complaining about too much homework. [Perhaps they have to sit down with their children and help with homework, or they have to wrestle with their kids to get them to sit down and do the homework, and they do not want to....]

[deleted account]

I'm not against private schools. I do recognize that they provide an excellent education. But from my experiences, there are people that assume all private is better. I had several students in my classrooms that had previously attended private and their parents thought they would be ahead and more advanced because of it. They were surprised to find that their children were in the middle of the pack or even behind in some cases. Not every private school provides a good education. I would just like people to recognize that not every private school is better than the public school system. And I do admit that many public schools are trecherous. But, again, that is not the case for all public schools. You have to do your research on all schools in your area and be open minded that your preconcieved opions can be wrong in some cases.

[deleted account]

As a friend who attended both told me once 'The only difference between public and private schools is better drugs, faster cars and more booze.'

Jackie - posted on 02/24/2010

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Luckily my husband is all for it. I have a friend who I went to private school with whose husband is ADAMANT that theres no difference and their kids don't need to go there. Anyways, that was just a side note =)

Geralyn...you pretty much summed up all of my thoughts for me, you just had more time than I did when I sat down and started this post, lol. Esp. on the diversity in Masters programs, my MBA/MSA program had 115 kids from 13 different countries and the north american countries were FAR from the majority...we accounted for maybe 10% and the kids from other countries were significantly advanced in many subjects.

On the kids being challenged, there may be some schools that can afford to put teachers aids in the classroom to split the class up among abilities....but that is def. not the case for all schools by any means. And I still think it makes a difference when you are trying to teach 2 different groups in teh same classroom two different things, than if you can take 20 kids all on the same intellectual level and challenge them. Then they can learn how to work off of each other AND the teacher.

We can "what if everyone had to go to public" all we want, but the fact of the matter is this world is made up of the have's and the have nots (which I am not really against). I firmly believe if you work your tail off you should be rewarded nicely for it....but I also want to prepare my daughter for being able to be part of the "have's" by getting the best education possible. May sound mean/selfish etc...but if I an afford it I can't concern myself with the other children at public school, she is my main concern.

(**Again, all my comments are regarding the many school districts in teh US with poor public education systems. I do know there are some communities where they are just as strong as the private schools...but these do tend to be in the "upscale" so to speak communities where there is alot of money to begin with, at which point it just comes down to do you want to the religious influence or not**)

Few thoughts though....in private schools you certainly can still end up wtih the bad kids/class clowns too. The difference is in how it is handled. In private schools the teachers address and deal with it - the child is not allowed to constantly distract the entire class over and over again. There is no concern of whether the parent agrees with their kid being sent to the principle or not...thats what happens. So you get exposed to it, but you are also taught its not "ok" to act like that.

And there are no private schools in my area that I am aware of that only allow whites by any means. Even all the way back to the mid 80s when I was beginning school we had a racial mix in our classes, so that certainly isn't the "norm".

Amber - posted on 02/24/2010

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My husband and I have this debate offten even though our son is only 19 months old, and some how everyone in my family sides with him. I want to send our son to privit school. The only ones in our town are catholic, and that doesnt bother me i think it will be good for him. My husband (and my family) want him to attend public school. There main argument is cost, but that is mine to, since it allows you to have more controll on his education. I went to public school, thats were my husband and i met, and even thought i was an honor student i believe it was harder because there was always some "class clown" distracting the class and making it hard to learn. I have talked him into allowing our son to go to Montessori school which he will start in August at the age of 2. Even thought it is up there in price (around 1500 a year) I hope my husband sees how benifical it can be.

Geralyn - posted on 02/23/2010

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I was speaking from purely an educational perspective without a consideration of money. There are schools that are about $40,000 per year - as expensive as most colleges. The quality education is beyond the reach of most, which is unfortunate.

Sara, I know what you mean about what if... everyone placed their kids in public schools. The more people take the their kids out of public school, the less money the public schools receive. Its a very sad state of affairs in many districts.... Many of the high school students cannot read or write above a 2nd or 3rd grade level. The reading level of the newspaper is a 6th grade level (or at least it was, have we had to water that down to?).

Louise - posted on 02/23/2010

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My son has been to both, and we're happy with both schools. But I prefer not to pay private school tuition. So we just moved to a city where the public schools are excellent and closer to our jobs. I just needed to do a lot of research greatschools.net has been really helpful.

Geralyn - posted on 02/23/2010

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Both my parents were public school teachers. Education was stressed in our home moreso that many people I have met in my life. We went to private school for much of our schooling, and while I felt a lot more prepared for post-secondary education than I would have if I had gone to public school, college was an eye-opening experience. I was competing with people who had attended some of the most rigorous programs. Through my experience school-wise and my upbringing, I have very strong opinions on this subject.

Private all the way. My statements about public schools are NOT referring to those school districts that have excellent schools. In those cases, the public school education may be sufficient. However, I grew up back east, and have lived in California for quite a while. Most public schools have significant issues and are not up to standards or just scraping by.

Its more than just class size or the teachers that the private schools have - credentialed or not. Private schools will set up criteria for acceptance, just like private colleges do. Then, they are better able to group the students homogeneously based upon abilities and achievement. What does this mean? A public school teacher has students with a wide range of abilities, achievement levels, interest and motivation. They cannot teach to the top students. They have to teach to that middle range - with the top performing tudents moving through from year to year with relative ease, and the bottom performing students doing poorly, failing, perhaps dropping out. The public school teachers cannot ramp up the level of difficulty because their job is to get a majority of students through with passing grades. The students with the most aptitude are not challenged (unless they pursue learning on their own) at all. It is a shame that many of the gifted and talented programs that did exist have been discontinued and that not enough is done for the these students.

If it were not for private schools, only a small minority of students would be able to compete with students from other countries. If you were to walk into an MBA or medical school, a high number of those students are not US citizens. They are educated abroad and come to this country for collegeor graduate school. What does it mean for our bright students? They will not have spots available in the top grad schools and colleges unless they are the absolute top of their class at high performing public and private schools.

Students think that its sufficient to be in the top 20-25% of their class when applying for college. However, THEY ARE NOT COMPETING WITH THE STUDENTS THAT THEY ARE ATTENDING SCHOOL WITH. THEY ARE COMPETING WITH STUDENTS THAT THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW. You have to take school seriously from elementary school, not just emphasize doing well in high school because those are the grades that the colleges will see....

The quality private schools have more money to sink into sports, extracurricular activities, and experiential learning. Credentials should not be that concerning, because there are excellent teachers out there from a liberal arts background who did not go through the college or masters' level education courses. There are also many "credentialed" teachers who may have done the necessary coursework, but they cannot spell or write. Their own abilities are lacking; how are they supposed to teach our children? Many of the schools in California have teachers on emergency credentials = although they changes the title because that caused outrage....

California is in such a sad state of affairs in education. Lay offs, budget cuts, programs canceled, schools closed.... There are schools that cannot even give their students books. Teachers have so many responsibilites and not enough help. Many parents are not involved in their children's education and do nothing to help. The guidance counselor programs did not do enough for our students who want to pursue college, etc... They have the same constraints, I am sure, and up to 1000+ students on their case loads, And frankly, unless the students are super-motivated to seek out their assistance, they don't get help.

I have to stop typing.... I guess I should have said "Don't get me started...."

[deleted account]

There are good public schools and good private schools. Bad public schools and bad private schools. You just have to do your research.

Many private schools around here are not as good because they can't afford to pay for certified teachers and have no accountability. Not all private, but many that I know of in my area, have these problems. The public schools get grants if they have a certian percentage of teachers that have master's degrees and are Nationally Board Certified. These teachers are paid more, but the system comes out on top financially because of the grants they recieve. There is also a state-approved curriculum that the public schools must follow to ensure that the students are being taught what they need. Each district has the opportunity to write their own curriculum (teachers write it) if they don't want to use the one the state puts out. But the curriculum must meet standards put out by the state. Many private schools don't have that.

This is sad to say and hard to admit, but many private schools in my area were created when desegration was made into law. I wouldn't want to send my children to one of these schools.

There are good private schools in my area (that were not created out of racism and have a phenomenal academic reputation) but my daughter will go to the public school because we live in the best district in the state. The private schools in our area don't compare unless you want to pay $10,000/year. I've done the research and have been inside of the schools as a student and teacher.

If we lived slightly north of here, private all the way. But the one my daughter would go to is a 30 minute drive. The closest private school to us is one that hires uncertified teachers, doesn't have curriculum accountability and is all-white.

Lindsay - posted on 02/22/2010

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I went to private school from Kindergarten through High School graduation. I enjoyed it and have some great memories from school. That being said, we live in a very good public school district and that's where my kids attend. I love their school, and the teachers and staff I have encountered. It really doesn't seem much different to me except for the uniform factor. But they do have a strict dress code so kids being dressed appropriately isn't an issue.



One of the things that private school does seem to have more success with is parental involvement. Parents seem to be involved in private schools because they are obviously paying for their child's education so they tend to play a huge factor in the success of the student. I'm not at all saying that all parents of public schooled children don't actively help with their child's education but I'd be willing to bet that it's a much lower percentage. But I think parent envolvement is a huge factor regardless of what school they attend.

[deleted account]

Private schools tend to be smaller and have smaller class sizes. This has to be an advantage even if the curriculum isn't any better. I would rather use private school if I had the money.

Some public schools are really bad where I live. The main problem is the way many of the kids bahave that go to them rather than the schools themselves. If I was zoned for a bad school I wouldn't send my son to it. If private school wasn't affordable I would homeschool. We're moving to an area where the public school isn't too bad, so I'll send there and see how it goes.

Amy - posted on 02/22/2010

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we talked about this. the only type of private school that would work for us is one that included God and the Bible in with other daily schooling. As far as teh rest of it....just price tag difference. I think we'll send our kids to public school though. They'll have to deal with teh public eventually, may as well give them a head start - that includes dealing with good/bad kids AND good/bad teachers. I had private schooling until 5th grade, went to public after that. school was school.

Brittney - posted on 02/22/2010

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I want my daughter in a private school because of my horrendus experience in public school. I could go into it, but it would be long and boring and I don't want to relive it.

Carolee - posted on 02/22/2010

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I've gone through both... and got expelled from both. They're about even in my eyes, with the exception that the rules are more strict in a private school.

Laila - posted on 02/22/2010

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I had every intention on sending my son to public school. I went to public school and I guess private school just never really crossed my mind. But for reason I am not going to get into, I ended up sending him to a private catholic school and I am extremely that we did. Raven, my son's class only has 9 other students. He gets great one on one time. The students in his class as great as well as his teacher. I also like the fact that I get to be involved with the school as much as I'd like. Believe me, I am definetly not one of those helicopter moms but its nice since I am a stay at home mom, that I can participate and be involved.

Jackie - posted on 02/22/2010

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Sharon, my point exactly =) And such is NOT the case in public schools thats for sure.

Sharon - posted on 02/22/2010

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Oh I agree with you Jackie. the bad teachers don't last in a private school. The parents paying for the school hold the strings and if a teacher has to many complaints

::: POOF ::: goes the teacher.

Jackie - posted on 02/22/2010

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While I do agree bad teachers can pop up anywhere....they don't seem to last in private schools. Not sure how, or why....but its very rare (not impossible, just rare) that you hear someone complaining about the teacher in a private school.

Jackie - posted on 02/22/2010

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I personally am a FIRM believer in private schools providing a stronger education than public schools. I went to private school from Kindergarten (age 5) through 9th grade (age 14) then finished my last 3 years of high school at a public school. I think the private schools are especially important in the earlier years when the basis of your education as well as your attitude towards it are established. I think the smaller class sizes are instrumental in increased learning. My school was catholic so yes we did have religion class every day and while I don't think it was the learning the bible stories that necessarily made the difference, there is a significant stress on morals, values etc etc which comes into play at a very key stage in kids developement in those early school years. Also, with the private schools since they are not state funded/run, they DO NOT tolerate the unruly children just b/c the parents complain enough. They are not afraid to punish (detention, suspend etc) a child....even to the point of expulsion. If a child has special needs, they put them in a separate program, they don't expect one teacher to teach what should be two different classrooms (I know some public schools do this, but some do "immersion" too) And they don't hesitate to hold kids back if they need it as the public schools have started shying away from...in my area at least. All of this considered allows for a better quality of education during the day since the teacher isn't constantly stopping to tend to a child who for whatever myriad of reasons, should not be in the classroom.



I was not forced to go to private school, I always had the choice, except when I got moved to the public high school, that was not by choice, that was for financial reasons. I would do it all over again in a second and I haven't even thought twice about the fact that my daughter will also go to private school. It scares me to hear/see some of the things that come up from kids I know currently in public schools. I am curious to hear what others have to say and will probably think of more reasons as people start to comment. But I want to reiterate one thing, b/c I don't want this turning into a debate over religion, I do not support private schools due to the religion class aspect...it is a very big picture opinion where hollisitically I consider them to be significantly better.

Sharon - posted on 02/22/2010

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Bad teachers can pop up anywhere.



but in general I prefer private over public because of the smaller classrooms, and more control the staff has over the smaller student body.



That said, my kids go to public school because my SIL is a teacher there and gives me reviews on who is a good teacher and who is best for my kids etc.

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