Get Schooled on Private School

From a large Catholic high school to a small Montessori elementary, a nature-based program on 40 acres or a selective school for gifted students, private education in Southwest Ohio comes in many forms. 

Nationally, there are more than 33,000 private schools educating 5 million — or roughly 10 percent — of all U.S. students. So why do families choose private schools? The reasons are as diverse as the educational offerings. If private school education has never been on your radar, here are some reasons to reconsider.

Education with a Mission

Private schools have the freedom to define their own mission, which is often centered on a particular educational philosophy or value system. The school must be intentional in determining why they exist, who they will serve and what they’re going to achieve.

“Our schools have the freedom to be oriented to a very specific mission, to be mission-centric in a way that often isn’t as possible in other schools,” noted Claudia Daggett, executive director of the Independent Schools Association of the Central States. “When we accredit schools, we look at those factors: Do they have a distinct school identity? What are the school’s core values? How effectively do they fulfill their mission?”

Different Ways of Teaching

Private schools aren’t bound by the same governmental regulations as public schools, including curriculum and textbook mandates, which often equates to teachers having more freedom in the classroom, supporters say.

“What we hear from parents is that they come here because of the teachers and the curriculum, because we challenge their child and help them develop a true love of learning,” says Kelley Schiess, assistant head of school at The Summit Country Day School, an independent K-12 Catholic school. “It’s not just traditional rows of desks — it’s innovation, amazing experiences and individual attention.”

That flexibility extends to assessing student progress, since private schools aren’t bound by the same standardized testing as public schools. Instead, teachers spend time on other ways of assessing knowledge.

“We don’t overpack students’ schedules. We don’t have homework in the lower grades. We do have assessments, but we don’t have excessive testing,” says Karen Crick, enrollment director at the Cincinnati Waldorf School. “Children are able to be free from stress and consider school to be joyful.”

Individual Attention

Even at the largest of private schools, it’s difficult for a student to be just an anonymous face in the crowded hallway. Instead, individual attention is a major reason parents choose private school education.

“Our schools characteristically offer a higher level of personalized attention. If you enroll there, they will know your child,” Daggett says. “Part of that has to do with the typically smaller schools and classes, but it also has to do with climate and culture focused on educating the whole child.”

Community Values

By definition, private schools are communities of families with shared values, where parents must make a choice — and often some sacrifices — to take part. That often equates to a high rate of parental involvement.

That partnership between school and parents is especially pronounced at faith-based schools, where families look to the school to nurture their child’s faith as well as academic pursuits.

“I think it’s powerful when you can combine academics with religious teachings about social justice, ethical responsibility and developing a strong moral character,” Schiess says. “We can encourage children to think beyond themselves to how they can utilize their God-given talents and be of service.”

There are many different reasons why parents choose private school education, just as there are many different types of private schools. Advocates encourage parents to assess what their family values most about education and then weigh all the options.


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