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Hype Versus Reality in Private Schools

Private schools function from an entirely different economic base than public schools. Because private schools succeed or fail based on the number of families who are paying tuition, many of the laws of marketing and merchandising apply. That is why you might even see commercials on television for a private school which you would never see for their counterparts in the public school arena. So the private school approach to education and the value they hope you will see in them consists not only in how they are superior to the public school system but how they are superior to every other private school in the community. So if you are looking closely at particular private schools, you might suspect that some of the big promises and grand “vision” that they present to make their school look great to you might be as much hype as it is reality. “Hype” is that kind of salesmanship that appeals to the grand and the noble in us all.

So if a private school presentation builds on your love for your children, on how children are the future of our society and on the poetic beauty and glory of all that is youth, somewhere in there is some amount of hype. How often have you watched a commercial for a private school that shows a picture presented is one that is virtually heaven on earth for young people? I know when I see that I wonder if those are real children they are picturing or something worked up by the Spielberg people like the creatures from the cantina scene of Star Wars. We have to add a measure of common sense and down to earth thinking to all the hype before we decide to actually put our own children into a private school as an alternative to having them in public school. A question has to be asked and answered before we sign papers to enroll in the school and that question is, “Can the school live up to all those grand promises and to all that hype?’ To get to the bottom of how to evaluate a private school, you must use the same approach you did when evaluating public schools in your area. You have to evaluate the school based on it’s performance.

And performance is measured in longevity, quality of existing students and quality of graduated students, e. alumni. If you decide yes or no about whether a particular school is all that they say they are just based on their commercials, their well prepared presentation when you go for an interview and the tour of the grounds, you are not getting to the heart of what makes a school great. To do that, you have to become a detective. Start with the parents of students already in the school. You may know some from your church or some other social circle you are in. Buy one of these parents lunch and find out what really goes on at that school. Parents who are paying the tuition to have their kids in the school are often quite candid about whether the school lives up to its hype. Don’t just settle for one interview but talk to as many parents of current and former students as you can so you can get a good balance to the picture you get from their witness.

A great question to include in the interview is “How long did your child go to the school?” Schools that take children from Kindergarten to High School graduation are obviously doing something right. Schools who see a lot of departures after a year or two have some kind of problem that is driving people away, whether they admit it or not. Give yourself time to dig deep into the existing population of the school and to talk to alumni families as well. By being thorough, you can find out if the school is able to perform in keeping with the promises they make and whether the school is a valid alternative to public school. And that is the kind of real life information you need before putting your child in that school to further her academic career. PPPPP Word Count 709 .


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