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Is there really that big of a difference between public and private school?
August 28, 2011 at 9:06 PM

I saw this in The Stir - Do you think there's a big difference?

There’s No Such Thing As a Smooth Transition From Private to Public School

Posted by Janelle Harris
on August 28, 2011
 
Listening to other parents before my daughter started kindergarten — and struggling with the decision of where to enroll her — I heard over and over again that once your kid started in private school, it was all but impossible to transition them to public. The curriculums were too different, the standards were too inconsistent, the atmospheres were too varied. I wondered if the chasm was really that big, particularly because some moms are private school elitists. You know, snobs.

When it comes to our kids’ education, hear some of us tell it, no other institution could possibly be as great as St. So-and-So Academy or This, That, and The Other Prep. There are those of us who have a tendency to turn up our noses at public school when, in actuality, some of those classrooms are just as good as the ones we’re shelling out thousands and thousands (and in my case, thousands) of dollars for our children to attend.

I’m not sure what to believe anymore. Heck, I’m a product of public school. I just absolutely cannot believe I’m shopping for high schools for my little girl. My baby. My pooter pie. I know I sound like every other nostalgic mama but I remember kindergarten so vividly that I can hear her little voice telling the girl next to her that she liked her lunch box, which ultimately led to her first friend in school. I remember how her hair was braided that morning and how I was the one who ended up in the principal’s office being consoled as I cried into a box of Kleenex. I’m a crier. We’ve learned that over the years.

Seems like time has been on fast forward. Now this is her last year in middle school and we’re getting brochures to rifle through our options for the oodles of high schools in the D.C. area. All-girls or co-ed. Big, sprawling campus or small, intimate building. Predominantly African-American or multicultural. And of course, Catholic, private, or public.

She started in a private Christian school in a teeny, tiny, three-story building in a bad neighborhood in West Baltimore. She got one heck of an education there, but it was just so darn expensive. Most of the parents there were in their mid-30s, married, and established. I was in my early 20s, single, and barely out of college, which is a nice way of saying I was turning being broke into a fine art.

To get some relief from the $6,500 tuition — which I’m still paying back in monthly loan payments, might I add — I moved her to a public charter school in Washington, D.C. It was new, the principal was young and ideological like I was, and I was confident that the switch would be a smooth one. She reassured me of it, as a matter of fact.

That ended up being the worst decision I could’ve made for my child’s education. Two years there was more than enough (one to test and one to confirm). I ran back to what I thought was the certainty of a private institution, this time taking the Catholic school route. But I haven’t been all that impressed with the curriculum and the standards in this school, either.

Now that we’re preparing to make the big jump into her last four years of secondary school (oh clutch the pearls!), I’m once again at a crossroads, trying to decide whether to try another public school or continue weathering these massive tuition payments — which will actually be even bigger because the two private high schools we’ve narrowed it down to are a cool $9,500 a year, not including uniforms and books.

With prices like that, you may not only see my posts here on The Stir, you may also spot me on the stroll or dangling from somebody’s seedy strip club pole, provided there’s a demand for portly, out-of-shape dancers who can barely get midway up the apparatus.

But I’m not one of those moms ruling out public schools just because they’re public. I just need the education to be quality — especially, especially if I’m paying for it. I need her to be challenged. I need her to be learning things in 9th grade that I wasn’t learning until the 11th. But I also want the school to have extracurriculars that will round out her experience. Dance would be nice. So would theater. I don’t care if it’s public or private, and I don’t believe that the transition can’t be smooth. I just want whatever we decide to work for her.

Is there really that big of a difference between public and private school?

Replies

  • Dani_Lynn
    August 28, 2011 at 10:11 PM
    In this area, yes. We've had great teachers.and public schools until we moved here. Perhaps our luck with such great schools made me naive to think we'd always be so lucky. That all changed when I walked into yhe public school we're zoned for to register them. They will be attending private school as long as we are stationed here.
  • LindaClement
    August 28, 2011 at 10:39 PM

    Yes and no. It depends on what you're looking at.

    In terms of illicit drug supply, weapons, sex offenses, violence, bullying, casually-cruel teachers... they're the same. Individual schools will have variations, and it doesn't matter at all whether they're private or public.

    The kinds of things that are taught, the expectations of excellence or mediocrity, and whether or not 'problem' children can be readily expelled, teacher's fired... those are a little easier to predict --although they may not be the way any given parent actually wants things to go.

    I ruled out public school because of the atrocious levels of violence, sexual assault, bullying and massive lack of supervision, quite apart from the very low standards of education built quite intentionally into the curriculum. Oh, and the propaganda. Couldn't stomach that at all.

    Private school was ruled out on price alone.

  • paganbaby
    August 28, 2011 at 11:12 PM

    Bump!

  • Dani_Lynn
    August 29, 2011 at 5:54 PM

     

    Quoting LindaClement:

    Yes and no. It depends on what you're looking at.

    In terms of illicit drug supply, weapons, sex offenses, violence, bullying, casually-cruel teachers... they're the same. Individual schools will have variations, and it doesn't matter at all whether they're private or public.

    The kinds of things that are taught, the expectations of excellence or mediocrity, and whether or not 'problem' children can be readily expelled, teacher's fired... those are a little easier to predict --although they may not be the way any given parent actually wants things to go.

    I ruled out public school because of the atrocious levels of violence, sexual assault, bullying and massive lack of supervision, quite apart from the very low standards of education built quite intentionally into the curriculum. Oh, and the propaganda. Couldn't stomach that at all.

    Private school was ruled out on price alone.

     The private school we are sending our children too is only $100 more than we would be paying to put DS in full time daycare and DD in before and after school care.  DS would have been in a room with 3-5 year olds (he'll be 5 in December) with no real curriculum.  In this school, he will be reading before the end of the year which wouldn't be the case in the post daycare or even the public Pre-K.  Also, many private schools award significant scholarships in lieu of volunteer time from the parents.  I am going to try to do as many hours as I can in the next two weeks before I start work.

    As for your first paragraph, I do believe there is quite a difference in the violence, weapons, illicit drug supply, and sex offences between public and private if one does their research and makes an informed decision.  As for bullying and mean teachers, yeah, they happen in public or private and even in homeschooling situations...

  • TruthSeeker.
    August 29, 2011 at 5:55 PM

     In my experience, Yes!

  • armywife1229
    August 29, 2011 at 9:08 PM

    Some places, yes. And for some kids, yes. 

    I will always give the public schools a chance. Except in Hawaii.

  • Maddies_mom101
    August 30, 2011 at 10:04 PM

    I think it all depends on the area.... i think private school have smaller classes

  • Maddies_mom101
    August 30, 2011 at 10:04 PM

    more focused on certain areas of study

  • Maddies_mom101
    August 30, 2011 at 10:05 PM

     cost ALOT more!

  • Andeigh
    by Andeigh
    August 30, 2011 at 10:06 PM

    I don't have any experience with private schools, but I'm beyond satisfied with the education that my children are receiving from public.

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