Private School Primer 

Public, private, charter, magnet, faith-based, Montessori, homeschool and more. With so many wonderful education options available, choosing the type of school that is the best fit for your child can feel like a daunting task. You may wonder… where do I begin?  

For parents who are considering private school, we have asked  Kelley Schiess — assistant head of school for enrollment management and community engagement with The Summit Country Day School in Cincinnati — to field some questions to help parents in their private school search.  

What are the differences between private and public schools? 

Private, independent schools are governed by a board of trustees, not a public-school board. They are primarily supported by tuition, charitable contributions and endowment. Independent school teachers have the freedom to create educational experiences that meet each child’s needs without state mandates on curriculum, testing and text books. The school is mission-driven.  

Whether coeducational or single-sex, day school or boarding school, each independent school is driven by its own unique philosophy, values and approach to teaching. The diversity of independent schools allows you to find a school that is a great fit for your student. Small classes allow for individual attention. For example, the median ratio for independent schools is 8.6 students to teacher.  

What should parents consider when looking for a private school?  

Visit the schools and ask good questions. Find out about the admission process, academic criteria, testing and deadlines. Talk with other parents and students who are currently enrolled to get their perspective. Research affordability programs that private schools may have to include financial aid, scholarships, workstudy programs, payment plans and 529 accounts. Review outcomes of graduate, college placement and engagement in activities.  

What else should parents know about searching for a private school?  

Independent schools are inclusive and foster diverse and vibrant student communities. In addition, independent schools encourage parents to actively participate in school life. They promote regular communication among students, parents and teachers, to ensure everyone is working toward the same goals. 

Whether public, private, Montessori, charter or one of the many other educational options available, when searching for the right school for your child, don’t be afraid to ask questions and trust your gut. And remember, you are your child’s advocate and know them best, and that knowledge goes a long way.  

Points to Ponder  

Jennifer Murphy, spokesperson for Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, offers some questions parents can ask themselves when thinking about private school for their child. 

*How will the school encourage your child to love learning and become an independent, critical thinker

*Your child will spend more waking hours at school than with you. How will they be led to flourish academically and socially (and spiritually, if exploring a faith-based school)? 

*What is the school’s mission statement? Do you agree with their philosophy and approach to curriculum? 

*What curricular and extracurricular activities offer your child the opportunity to grow in their gifts and talents, both within and outside of the classroom? 

*Does the school have a profile highlighting the academic success of their graduates? 

*How will the school help your child be fully prepared for college and beyond? 

*What unique academic programs exist at the school? 

*How does the school engage parents in the learning process? 

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