Private School Myths Busted

To some, private schools represent “the enemy,” the hated place where vouchers send the money that public schools needs, and they’re taking over. But what’s the truth about private schools?


According to the Council for American Private Education (CAPE), private schools make up 25% of all schools in the country, enrolling 11% of all U.S. PK-12 students.


To fully understand the current state of American education, we need to find the truth amongst the most common myths about private schools:


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Myth 1: Private schools are only for the wealthy.


Truth: 80% of students from families that make $100,000 or more annually attend public school; 20% attend private school. The annual private school tuition in 2003-2004 was approximately $6,600 (CAPE). Yes, some schools charge a small fortune in tuition, but in any major U.S. city, you can find schools where tuition is under $5,000 a year and where parents work two jobs to pay it because the public schools in their district offer little academically and/or are potentially dangerous places.


Myth 2: Private schools are really strict.


Truth: This myth harkens back to the days when evil nuns roamed the classroom with ruler in hand. Private schools can be stricter than public schools, but the most recent Schools and Staffing Survey published by the National Center for Education Statistics found that private school teachers generally experienced fewer behavior problems in the classroom, so it seems to be working.


Myth 3: Private Schools are all religious schools that expect you to follow their beliefs.


Truth: Most private school students (81%) attend some type of religious school. In 2007-2008, 42.5% of all private school students attended a Catholic school. However, the next largest group (19.4%) attended a non-sectarian school, followed by Conservative Christian schools at 15.2%.

Most schools will embrace students and teachers of different faiths, as long as they show respect for the school’s religious tradition. For example, many non-Catholic students and teachers attend or work at Catholic schools, but they are expected to behave respectfully when prayers are being said and students are expected to participate in religion classes. Any expectations are spelled out in advance through contracts or other documents, so people can withdraw if they are uncomfortable with the expectations.


Myth 4: Private schools let teachers do whatever they want. They don’t have to follow the standards, teach to the test, etc., like public school teachers do.


Truth: Private school teachers generally feel more empowered to impact their school. A 2002 National Center for Education Statistics report found that private school teachers felt they had more control over establishing curriculum, evaluating students, and setting discipline policy. That may be why private school teachers have good levels of job satisfaction, although their salaries are typically lower than public school teachers.


Private schools do not get to do “whatever they want.” Most reputable private schools are accredited, which means they must submit to regular reviews by an outside panel. Most use the state standards to guide their curriculum development, and many high schools get their curriculum approved by the state board of education to ensure that their students are getting a quality education.

Private and public schools have their differences, but it’s important for teachers to keep in mind that we all share the same goal: providing a good education for our students.


What is your opinion on private schools? Share in the comments section!

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