Ten Questions Parents Need to Ask Private Schools

Most parents spend countless hours contemplating their children’s Educational plans to determine which learning environment is best suited for them.  With today’s choices of schools, whether private, public, homeschool, or a combination of all three, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.  To help you navigate through this important decision, KCFM has compiled a list of frequently asked questions that you can use when researching the pros and cons of attending a private school.  Just like public schools, private schools vary in class size, facilities, teachers, and administrative support.  Knowing which questions to ask will help you find out what schools are set up to meet your children’s Educational goals and achievements. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is the school accredited? Local private schools do not fall under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Education (CDE) and most state regulations.  So, a private school’s accreditation from a nationally recognized organization ensures its standards and accomplishments.

What curriculum is taught?  Different private schools follow different types of curriculum – some secular and some religiously affiliated.  Find out the details of the course study beforehand to make sure it fits in with your Educational and spiritual desires.

What are its religious and/or political affiliations?  How much of the instruction time is devoted to these beliefs?  Find out if the private school you are researching fits in with your family’s beliefs and values. 

What are the average class size and the student-to-teacher ratio?  Most public schools have an average class size of 30; therefore, a 30:1 ratio.  To ensure more individual attention, you need a private school that offers a ratio of 15:1 or less.

What is the tuition rate?  Discounts for multiple children?  Any chance of raising the tuition during my children’s tenure?  Private schools have a budget they must meet just like public schools.  However, these private institutions can raise money through development activities, annual appeals, foundation and corporate grants, alumni support, and increasing tuition costs.

How does the school measure student achievement?  What percentage of students attends college after graduation?  The CDE does not collect any information on private school student performance, and the API only applies to public schools.  Ask the school’s main office to see the school’s profile of standardized test results by grade level.

What extra Educational opportunities are available?  AP courses? Enrichment and sports activities?  Tutoring services?  These types of classes and extracurricular activities enrich children’s Education and help with their admittance to a top-tier college.

What are the credentials of the faculty?  How many have advanced degrees?  The CDE does not require that private school teachers possess a valid California teaching credential.  However, most private school teachers do have a current credential, and many have advanced or specialized degrees.

What is the faculty turnover rate?  How long has the current principal or headmaster been at the school?  A 10-20 percent turnover rate is not cause for alarm, but a turnover rate of 40 percent or more can indicate a bigger problem.  Also, if there have been several principals over a short period of time, it can also be another warning sign.

What kind of administrative support and services does the school employ?  With less bureaucracy, most private schools have a leaner management team.  However, make sure the school has the resources available for an organized, effective Educational environment.

To find more information about local private schools, please visit the CDE’s web site, www.cde.ca.gov where you can download a CDE Fact Book.  You can also find a comprehensive list of private schools in the California School Directory.

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