The basic differences between a private school and a public school are finances and governance, Public schools are funded and run by government agencies; private schools are funded by tuition fees, gifts and donations, and grants, and are governed independently, by a board of trustees. However, that doesn?t quite describe the actual differences that exist between the two forms of education.
Currently, there are over 30,000 private schools in the United States, serving over 5 million students from Pre-Kindergarten to 12th grade. Private schools comprise about 24 percent of our schools, and enroll 10 percent of our students; this tells us something about one of the advantages of private school: small class sizes. Many private schools guarantee small class sizes because they know that this is of benefit to students. A private academy can cap the class size and limit the number of students they accept overall; in fact, 86 percent of private schools have less than 300 total students, and private high schools in particular are, on average, less than half the size of their public counterparts.
Of course, small class size isn?t the only advantage.
Private schools tend to hire the very best educators, teachers who are not just highly-qualified, but who are engaged in lifelong learning and have an outstanding commitment to teaching. In a 2007 study by the Fraser Institute, 91 percent of surveyed parents said their top reason for choosing a private school was the dedication and excellence of the teachers. One could argue that it?s easier for a teacher to excel and engage when they have a smaller class size; it?s also easier for them to personalize and modify lessons for diverse students, and this is another benefit of a private education: more one-on-one time with the teacher, and adapted materials designed to meet a variety of learning needs.
Another one of the benefits of a private school education is college counseling and prep. Of course, public high schools offer this as well, but, just as a private school teacher has more time for each student, so does a private school guidance counselor. The 2014 State of College Admissions report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling?s 2014 State of College Admissions showed that, on average, private school counterparts spent 52 percent of their time on college admissions counseling, compared to the 24 percent time expenditure of public high school guidance counselors. Not surprisingly, then, 88 percent of private high school students apply to college, compared to 57 percent of public high school students. Attending a private preparatory academy could make all the difference in whether or not a student explores all his or her options for college.
There are other reasons that students and parents might choose a private school education: religion, special education needs, athletic programs, flexible curriculums that allow for travel, etc., but overall, it seems that the best bet is to research to the top private schools in your area and find out what is available. Not all private schools are expensive, and many offer financial aid and sliding-scale tuition.