The choice to send your child to private school is significant for many families. Part of this decision-making process is the consideration of which private school is the best one for your child. In any given geographic location, there may be dozens or hundreds of schools to choose from. How can you decide between the many options available?
Here are several key factors to consider when you are trying to choose the best private school for your child to attend.
Most schools have an operational philosophy, which is at the core of all of their programming. This will influence every aspect of the school, including electives offered, how programs are structured, teaching styles, and student life. Your student and your family should feel comfortable with this philosophy as it will have a major impact on their academic and personal success.
Every private school has a personality, and it is largely influenced by the students themselves. The personality may be more arts-focused, athletic, political, or a combination of several elements. Additionally, some schools have a fairly homogenous population, while others recognize the value of diversity. Consider the personality of your child and look for the kind of environment where they will be most encouraged to excel.
There is an endless range of possible extracurriculars at private schools. Your child can nurture their love of art or discover a new interest in community service, music, or the environment. If they have a hobby, finding a school with clubs or courses in that field can be a game-changer for them. If they are still exploring their interests, a range of activities may help them find their way. Each school will also have their own level of resources to offer for each activity, another strong differentiator.
Probably the fastest-growing field of study today is STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. In these courses, students learn the skills they will need to solve the complex challenges facing tomorrow’s citizens. While not every student will want to follow this course of study, its prominence in a school’s curriculum can tell you a lot about the school’s overall level of responsibility and commitment to educating students.
Private schools are not bound by state or district regulations and can determine their own curriculum. Look closely at the courses offered – both requirements and electives – to see if the profile meets your approval and fits your child’s interests. Unless your child is exceptionally focused on one specific area of study, the K-12 years are a vital time for them to be exposed to a wide range of studies. And if a high-school-age student is already totally committed to medicine, law, engineering or another career path, the school should offer deep learning and experience in that area.
Teachers at private schools are not required by the state to be credentialed in the same way as at public schools. That said, each private school will have their own requirements for the teachers they hire. You should take a close look at the experience and credentials of the teachers at each school you are considering, and speak to school administrators about their requirements.
Once you have narrowed your selection down to a handful of choices, plan to visit each of the schools on your list. Nothing can replace the value of walking the actual grounds, seeing the students and staff interact and getting a feel for the environment. A site visit also gives you the opportunity to have in-person conversations with school officials, teachers and administrators.
You may have noticed that rankings are ranked last in this guide. There is a very important reason for this. This type of rating can be quite subjective, and the organization’s criteria for determining a school’s position may be very different from your own priorities. While it can be useful to look at a few different providers, in the end it’s not the best way to narrow down your choices, much less to make the ultimate decision of where to send your child to private school.
These are just a few of the many criteria you will want to consider when choosing the best private school for your child. It’s never an easy decision, and the process can feel overwhelming at times. However, if you maintain a clear picture of your goals, and keep the above points in mind, you will find it easer to sort through your options and make a choice that works for you and your child.