According to the David d’Escoto of crosswalk.com, public schools have come under scrutiny for being secular and not God-centered. The growth of private Christian schools is increasing every year, as well as other secular private schools. Many parents ask themselves the question of whether a private education would be better for their children over the public school system. “Instead of just looking at the raw data, parents should instead ask themselves what type of schooling they want for their child,” says Mark Dynarski of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institute.
Parents are looking to private Christian education for many reasons. First, it can be argued that public schools fail to train up each child according to his or her unique gifts, learning needs, and future callings. When one teacher has to manage a classroom full of children, deal with unending discipline problems, alter lessons to the varying needs mandated by the government, many students simply fall through the cracks. Private schools tend to have a smaller teacher-to-student ratio.
Second, the latest research reports that the U.S. spends well over a half-trillion tax dollars a year on education, but as the Washington Post reported recently, children who are government schooled consistently rank near the bottom of all industrialized nations in math and science. Private school students generally perform higher than their public school counterparts on standardized achievement tests. Their average scores were above those of public school students on the 4th-grade reading test and on the 4th-, 8th-, and 12th-grade science and mathematics proficiency tests.
Third, by placing children in the public school system, parents basically relinquish their authority to teachers, coaches, counselors, administrators, and local and state board members. Scarier still is the statistic that about half of all parents cannot even name their child’s teacher, making one wonder if they even know what their child is actually learning in school. The most important parts of any school are the teachers. In this area, public schools have an advantage over private. The percentage of new teachers (less than four years teaching experience) is higher in private schools at 16 percent compared with public schools at 11 percent. The public school teachers also have a higher percentage of master’s degrees. Public school teachers are required to participate in some form of professional development every twelve months compared to 67 percent in private schools. But, where public school teachers must be certified before they are allowed to teach, private school teachers do not have such requirements.
Fourth, students spend an average of 1,100 hours a year in public school. This does not include commutes, extended care hours, after-school commitments, and the ever-increasing burden of homework and tutoring programs. Very little time is left for meaningful family interaction. Sadly enough, once those unhealthy appetites for peer relationships have developed, parents and siblings learn to get along without each other.
Next, the truth of peer dependency. A child left with other kids for a minimum of five days a week, 180 days a year, will learn to accept and do whatever is necessary in order to gain approval by his peer group. The nation’s 33,600 private schools offer parents the ability to be more selective of the students that their child will spend their days with. “Numerous studies have shown that private schools, on the whole, offer a more positive peer environment,” says Dynarski. Part of the reason for this is the fact that private schools can screen who they admit, and can tailor offerings to the type of child they want coming through their doors. Plus, due to the fact that parents are paying, students tend to come from a higher socio-economic class.
Sixth, First Corinthians 15:33a warns to not be deceived, telling that bad company corrupts good morals. When students are grouped in a classroom for the majority of the day, it is no wonder schools are rampant with poor attitudes, low self-esteem, open hostility toward teachers, vandalism, bullying, drug use, gun threats, fear, and chaos. While it would be nice to think that the “good kids” are being salt and light, in most cases, good morals are grossly compromised. Private schools are not obligated by any laws regarding admission. Private schools are also under no obligation to keep a student enrolled. If a child’s behavior disrupts the school’s milieu, they can be kicked out. Another scenario to keep in mind is that if a child’s academic progress is not acceptable, they may be kicked out as well.
Lastly, the public schools of today have succeeded in removing the Bible and are becoming more and more openly hostile toward religion. Parents who want some form of a religious values-based learning environment will need to seek out private schools. A vast majority of private school students (79 percent) attend some form of a religiously-affiliated school. A full 1.9 million kids are enrolled in Catholic institutions, making it the largest component of the private school universe. But, it’s a system that is changing. According to the National Catholic Educational Association, 18.4 percent of all the students enrolled were non-Catholic, a number that has been steadily growing over the years.
In conclusion, it is important to note that for every expert extolling the virtues of keeping a child in public schools, there is another touting the benefits of going private. Comparing hard data is just as confusing. Private schools are not required to release detailed data about their classes like public schools are. The only metric that both types of schools go head to head on is national testing (SAT, PSAT, & ACT). Most may not be surprised to learn private schools perform better, though districts argue that it is due to those students coming from privileged backgrounds. When comparing data, it is very important to compare data that compares the same types of schools, students, gender, socio-economic background and many other areas of concern. It would be unfair to compare, “apples to oranges.” With no overall right or wrong answer regarding whether private or public school education is best for children today, the best thing to do is to consider the factors and weigh which ones are important to you. Arm yourself with real numbers and information regarding the public and private schools. Go to the schools and get numbers. Finally, start early. Most private schools begin their open house and enrollment processes the year before the school year.