The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting disruption in education has many parents questioning their assumptions about their children’s education. As public school districts shifted to distance learning, parents, teachers, and students faced a steep learning curve for adjusting to distance learning. Educational experts fear this disruption to education will have lasting effects. And parents, who are disappointed with the educational opportunities of their local public schools, are perhaps more eager than ever before to consider private school.
The California Department of Education reports that about 479,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade attended private schools last school year, and that number could be on the rise as public school parents who are dissatisfied with public school offerings look to private school for solutions.
More Families Looking to Switch From Public to Private School
In a survey released August 3 by the University of Southern California Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research, 22 percent of respondents with K-12 students said they would change schools for the 2020-21 school year. Of those who reported a school change, 28 percent said the decision is “somewhat” or “very much” influenced by experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Parents are demanding more from their schools,” said Chad Jackson, President of Fairmont Schools in Anaheim, California. Many public school parents were dissatisfied with the roll-out of distance learning in the spring and are considering all options, from homeschooling to teaching pods to online education.“ We anticipate that a number of families who were happy with their public school offerings in the past, may be looking for something more rigorous or for a school that gives them the option of choosing remote learning or on-campus instruction,” said Jackson.
The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) is seeing an increase in enrollment this year with fifty-one percent of member schools reporting that they have either maintained or grown enrollment this fall. COVID-19 and the resulting disruption to education has many families considering private school for the first time.
Why Do Families Choose Private Schools?
A study conducted this summer by NAIS looked at the reasons why families choose private schools. They found that the majority of families look to private, independent schools for a personalized approach to education that prioritizes the needs of their child(ren).
Of the top four reasons NAIS identified, the number one determinant for families is a school environment that ensures their child continues to grow emotionally and academically, fulfills his or her full potential in school, and stays on track for college acceptance. In addition, families who perceive that their current school is failing them–either in terms of academics or safety–look to private schools to ensure their child is being supported socially and emotionally and does not fall behind in academics. The COVID-19 pandemic has created uncertainty in the minds of parents as to whether their local public school is capable of delivering on these needs.
What Are the Benefits of Private Schools?
Public vs Private School: Personalized Instruction
Many private schools offer smaller class sizes, higher teacher to student ratios, and more emphasis on differentiated instruction–speaking to the needs of families who are looking for an educational program that is tailored to their child’s specific needs. At Fairmont, students participate in formative testing early in the school year, and the results of these assessments help guide instruction.
“There is no ceiling on what children can do at Fairmont,” says Jackson. “If we have a sixth grader who is ready for Calculus, we make that happen. It’s all about identifying the strengths and area of growth for each child, and giving them opportunities to thrive.”
Public vs Private School: Specialized Programs
Private schools often offer speciality programs that allow students with special talents and interests to further develop in these areas. At Fairmont Schools, for example, students can advance their STEM learning through participation in robotics and engineering programs. Elite athletes and performing artists can participate in sports or arts training as part of the regular school day.
Public vs Private School: Academic Outcomes
Many families are drawn to private schools because of their impressive academic outcomes. Private schools often report higher than average standardized test scores and college acceptance rates. For example, the College Board reports that the Class of 2019 earned a national average SAT score of 1059. The SAT average of 2019 seniors at Fairmont Preparatory Academy was XXXX. Parents who place a high value on top college acceptance or who have a student who is exceptionally gifted may seek out private schools that demonstrate a legacy of academic excellence.
Public vs Private School: Quality Instruction
Private schools achieve strong academic performance in part due to the strength of their faculty. They hire and retain highly skilled teachers who connect with the school’s mission and values and allow greater teacher involvement in decision making and instruction. Unlike public school, private school teachers are not required to maintain a teaching credential; however, many of the most well-respected private schools seek out teachers who are credentialled and have advanced degrees in their field of study. Private school review reports that for the 2020-21 school year, the average percentage of private school faculty in California that have attained an advanced degree is 58 percent.
Public vs Private School: Parent-teacher Partnership
Private school parents can expect enhanced communication from their school faculty and administration. Teachers understand that their role is not only to educate children, but to communicate clearly with parents about their child’s progress and areas for improvement. Because of the smaller more intimate setting of many private schools, there’s a strong sense of partnership between parents, teachers, and administrators.
Public vs Private: School Community
While some private schools have a religious affiliation or an association with a particular educational methodology such as Waldorf or Montesorri, regardless of affiliation, private schools offer families a culture of shared values and responsibilities. Some private schools require parents to complete volunteer service hours or participate in annual giving. Because families have elected to join the private school, they often feel a strong sense of loyalty and connection to the school community that extends beyond the classroom.
Public vs Private School: School Safety
Private schools often feature close-knit campus communities where families feel a greater sense of safety, security, and connectedness. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention identified more than 800,000 reported cases of school violence in 2010 with cases ranging from physical fights to bullying. Because private schools are selective in choosing which students to accept, they avoid enrolling students with behavioral problems. Many private schools maintain a strict code of conduct that identifies violent or inappropriate behavior on the part of any member of the school community as grounds for expulsion or termination.
Finding the Right Private School for Your Family
For families who are considering a transition from public school to private school, it helps to do your homework:
- Conduct an internet search of private schools in your area, visiting websites and reviewing admissions materials
- Ask friends and families for referrals
- Consider visiting popular school review sites such as www.niche.com or www.privateschoolreview.com for profiles of local private schools and reviews that offer a real world perspective
- Check out the social media profiles of the top schools on your short list to see what the school culture is like
- Connect with school admissions staff to inquire about the process for admissions and see if space is available at the school(s) of your choice
- And finally, schedule a campus tour to meet in person with a representative from the school, tour the campus, and experience the school for yourself
Just like public school educators, the administration and faculty of private schools care deeply about providing students with a wonderful learning experience. They are happy to serve as guides as you decide what type of school is best for your family.
MORE ABOUT FAIRMONT SCHOOLS
Founded in 1953, Fairmont Schools is a family-owned and operated learning institution with five campuses — Fairmont Anaheim Hills, Fairmont North Tustin, Fairmont Historic Anaheim (Pre-K to 8th grade), Fairmont San Juan Capistrano (Pre-K to 12th grade), and Fairmont Preparatory Academy (9th to 12th grade). Fairmont has been voted Orange County’s Best Private School for five consecutive years, and is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and AdvancED, and is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS).
If you are looking for a private school, it’s not too late to enroll for the 2020-2021 school year. Contact admissions to schedule your tour today.