Choosing a private school

Helping you navigate private education.

Parents select private or parochial schools for a variety of reasons. Sometimes a child has special needs. Perhaps you’re seeking an accelerated academic environment for your gifted child. Or you want a school that emphasizes your religious beliefs. In many cases, parents are simply looking for a more structured learning atmosphere with smaller classes and more careful supervision.

The question becomes where do you begin?

Your child’s education is important. Start here at to find out what types of schools are available.

Choosing the right type of private school

You can’t begin to make choices about your child’s education without first being educated yourself. There are several options available outside of traditional public school.

  • Private day schools: Are privately financed (meaning parents pay tuition) and independently operated schools that work within a normal school day and calendar. They can encompass several grade levels at once, but typically have very low student-teacher ratios.

  • Parochial school: Essentially a private school with a religious affiliation, such as the Catholic or Episcopal Church. These affiliations usually are infused into various aspects of the curriculum.

  • Single sex: Denotes a school that will only allow admittance to children of the same sex (i.e. an all boys or all girls school)

  • Boarding school: While dwindling in number, boarding schools are private schools in which the child lives on the school campus during the academic year, much like a college environment.

How do I choose a school?

Some things to consider when choosing a school:

  • Price. Can you afford it? Will you be able to get financial aid or scholarship money. Will there be any additional cost such as uniforms, supplies, transportation, and separate academic or boarding fees?

  • Ask friends, neighbors and educators for recommendations. In some cases, public school administrators or teachers are familiar with private schools. Ask them for an opinion. If you have friends with children at private schools, ask them for recommendations.

  • Maybe you want a rigorous academic program, like a preparatory school. Or perhaps you would like a certain emphasis, like in the arts or music. Maybe you want a nurturing, warm environment. Make a list of qualities and then seek them out.

  • Year round versus standard school year. Some private schools in <*county*> County offer year round school. Students typically get the same number of days off during the year as in a traditional school year with breaks given throughout the year.

  • Schedule a visit and tour. Meet the teachers, the administrators and the students. Check out the facility.

  • Look at class size and compare with the public schools in your area. Look at their statistics. Most of this information is available on the school’s websites.

  • Check out the credentials of the teachers. Do they have specialized degrees in their areas, such as math or chemistry? How long have the teachers been on staff? Also check into the principal or headmaster/headmistress. What are his or her qualifications, and how long has he or she been there?

  • When you visit the school, ask specific questions about the curriculum. What books do they use? What is the focus? How much homework will your child be expected to do on a daily basis? Inquire about test scores. What standardized tests are taken and how do the school's scores compare to national standards. Also, where do these children go after leaving the school? Do they have problems getting into their schools/colleges of their choice?

  • Ask about their grading system. How many tests are there per week on the average? What is the test taking policy (in other words, can they make up a test if their score is low?). Will they have entrance and/or exit exams?

  • Ask how discipline is handled. Is it time out, visits to the principal or extra assignments? As you tour the school, look at the behavior in the classroom. Is it under control or out of hand? Do the students appear interested or bored? Be sure and ask to enter classrooms during your tour. Visualize your child in the room and ask yourself if that situation feels "right." Ask direct questions like, "What action has been taken in the past to handle those who cheat on tests?" "How are drug problems handled?" "Have you ever expelled a child, and for what reason?"

  • Ask if there are clubs, sports teams and enrichment classes to join. Request a list of opportunities for the child.

  • Look at the school itself. How is campus safety?

  • Again, be sure to ask for the level of parental involvement. Is it hands-on in the classroom? Will you feel welcome at the school? Is there a parent-teacher organization, and what activities does the group perform?

You want to be as hands-on with your choice as possible to ensure that both you and your child are happy with your academic choice.

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