Private Teen Schools
Parents select private schools for a variety of reasons. Sometimes a child has special needs. Other times, the child is gifted and the parents seek an accelerated academic environment. In many cases, the parents are simply looking for a more structured learning atmosphere with smaller classes and more careful supervision.
If you are new to an area, check the phone book. Make sure the school is accredited before going any further with your search. Ask your Realtor, and even your children’s pediatrician.
• What should I look for in a private school?
That answer depends on what you are looking for for your child’s education. Maybe you want a rigorous academic program, like a preparatory school. Or perhaps you would like a certain emphasis, like in the arts or music. Look at class size and compare with the public schools in your area. Maybe you want a nurturing, warm environment. Decide what you want and then seek it out.
• What should I expect from private school teachers?
Check out the credentials of the teachers. Do they have specialized degrees in their areas, such as math or chemistry? Or did they graduate with general degrees? How long have the teachers been on staff? Is turnover a problem? Are the teachers well paid?
If the teachers are experienced, and have a long-term history with the school, that will tell you that most likely they are happy there.
• How can I find out about the academic program?
When you visit the school, ask specific questions about the curriculum. What math book do they use? Ask to see it and page through it. What is their language arts curriculum? What books do they read, and what writing assignments do they have?
What is the school’s philosophy on homework? Is it given daily? During weekends? How many hours should it take, and what is the punishment if it is not turned in on time?
Do the children go on field trips? How do they travel, by bus, car, train or plane? Who supervises them on these trips?
Ask about grades. Is there grade inflation where everyone makes an “A.” Or are the grades distributed fairly. How many tests are there per week on the average? What is the test taking policy (in other words, can they make-up a test if their score is low?).
• How do I ask about discipline?
Be very direct, and ask how discipline is handled. Is it time out, visits to the Principal, or extra assignments? As you tour the school, look at the behavior in the classroom. Is it under control or out of hand? Do the students appear interested or bored? Be sure and ask to enter classrooms during your tour. Visualize your child in the room and ask yourself if that feels “right.”
Ask direct questions like, “What action has been taken in the past to handle those who cheat on tests?” “How are drug problems handled?” “Have you ever expelled a child, and for what reason?”
• What about extracurricular activities?
Ask if there are clubs to join, sports teams and enrichment classes. Request a list of opportunities for the child.
• Can parents be involved in the school?
Again, be sure to ask for the level of parental involvement. Is it hands-on in the classroom? Will you feel welcome at the school? Is there a parent-teacher organization, and what activities does the group perform?
• Who should I ask for references on a particular school?
It is advised to talk to parents of current students or recent graduates. Ask what the positives and negatives are. Remember that no school is perfect. It is your job as a parent to locate the school that comes closest to meeting your child’s educational needs.