T.D. asks from Dallas, TX on March 23, 2008
Private v Public
I am faced with the never-ending question in the Dallas area -- private or public? I had thought I had resolved this question in favor of public. My son is currently a K-er at a good public school (RISD) right up the street. I am a big proponent of public education believing that it provides more overall. I am also happy with the school and still believe it, the junior high and high school, would provide a good education -- academically and socially. Here comes the "but". We have had some bumps. For example, my son is exhibiting an above-average level of ability in math, but has been behind in (and does not enjoy) reading. The problem (other than obvious learning disparity) is that I did not know about this until I had called his teacher about a volunteer matter in January. She then dropped that my son did not benchmark his DIBLs test (sounds, letters, etc) in September (yes, 4 months earlier) but got 100% on the RISD Kindergarten math test in December where the average score was 81%. Both facts shocked me -- the most obvious was that my son needed help in an area and no one had told me. At that time, he was facing another DIBLs test -- so I took him by the hand and did flash cards with him every night. He benchmarked this test but I don't believe he would have done so had I not intervened -- I would not have intervened had I not made that phone call and found out that I needed to. What if I had not called? What if I don't call in the future? Out of these concerns, we applied to my church's private school, which is one of the higher-ranked in Dallas. We applied and he and my daughter (pre-K) have been accepted -- which we are very happy about and realize that this was not an easy thing to do. However, I am facing a huge bill this week (and a lifetime of more to come) to secure their spots and I am confused as to what to do. Should I give up on my belief in public education? Will $30k a year for the next 12 years really mean a better education and a better chance at Ivy League? My husband and I are both the products of public education -- we ended up attorneys in large law firms -- we didn't turn out so bad. ;-) My question is: is there a difference? Is private worth it? Am I setting up my children for the possibility of being the lower 50% in private school, where they might be be top 10% in public? Can I send them back to public at some point? In case it was not obvious, I am thoroughly confused. Thank you for your time.
1 mom found this helpful
So What Happened?™
I want to thank everyone who took the time to offer their kind words of advice, personal experiences and support. After reading all of your responses, I feel better equipped to make, and am more comfortable with, my decision. Thank you very much.
J.G. answers from Dallas on March 24, 2008
I grew up in a private school through the 8th grade and then went to public school for high school. Academically I was ahead when I went to the public school, but socially (I was a very shy child.) it was difficult at times to adjust to the much larger school. The problems I did have, I probably would have had anyway, I just would have known more people as I went into the school. That being said, my son will be going into K and going to the public school (PISD) and I am very impressed by what I've seen there. My plan is to try to keep open communication from the very beginning and watch him closely. I'm probably going to be one of "those" parents...you know, always there volunteering for stuff.
I don't believe any school at this point is a guarantee of an Ivy League school later. I know none of my friends/classmates from my private school ended up IL, but none of us are doing badly either. The main thing I'm looking for for my son is that he's being challenged, learning and happy.
S.C. answers from Dallas on March 24, 2008
My children went to a private preschool (that would work on sounds and letters) and public school. So much is expected in Kindergarten that I believe that they need a good start before hand) I have one that graduated last year and she was accepted to all of the schools that she applied. She also had a perfect SAT score with out going to any prep classes for the SAT. I have a son that is a freshman and a daughter that is in 8th grade. I have found that a great education can be had in public schools but you have to work at keeping communications open. For some reason teachers are not ones to initiate the conversations but if you do then the information flows freely. By the way my children are in PISD school district.
D.L. answers from Dallas on March 24, 2008
I know it is a difficult choice, I raised two children both went to private schools until 8th grade total cost is around 180K, which we could afford then, but looking back we could of been putting this money aside for college. The private school did have smaller class size, but I don't feel that they learned any better than public except for the WAS the Christian tone, but we go to Church and youth groups and Summer Camps too. The hardest thing has been my children adjusting to a larger campus for public high school- which I know will help in readyness for college. Our private school only had 400 students total from k-12.
I now teach at a public school and there is help for children just ask the principal at there public school.
MY son is in the top 10% at his public school, I feel very little had to do with private school. He worked hard and took all AP classes 9-12 grade.
A.C. answers from Dallas on March 24, 2008
I would love to see all the responses you get as we are following very closely in your footsteps. I wouldn't change a thing about our daughter's kindergarten year (her teacher is beyond fabulous)! She is thriving and doing very well. This being said, I started researching private schools in January, and we are currently applying to a Christian school in Frisco. This has been a very difficult decision for us as I attended public schools all the way through and taught in public schools for ten years. However, I have had concerns about the direction of public schools in general. We live in Allen and built our second house in Allen because of the schools, but have some reservations about the direction of the schools. If we could be guaranteed teachers like our child's kindergarten teacher (who is a Christian), we probably wouldn't be applying to private school so early. I know I am not any help to you, but I wanted you to know that you aren't the only one in this dilema. Also, regarding not being notified about your child's reading areas of concern is not acceptable. As a former teacher I can confidently say that you should have been notified immediately. That just doesn't make any sense. Kindergarten teachers in the public schools must be overwhelmed with so many five and six year olds in their classes (I taught older kids), and I know things can happen, but I still feel like you should have been told. By the way, my husband is an attorney as well. What firm are you with?
D.C. answers from Dallas on March 24, 2008
I heard a great speaker the other day in regards to the same thing. She was $40,000 in debt and because a classmate of her son's in the "gifted" private school was arrested on a charge she decided to pull her child from the school and put them in the public school system. She found that the public school system was using the same text books and her son was behind in math.
I put my child in public school and although he passed his end of 1st grade benchmarks for both reading and math at 100% at the begining of the school year, I think that he has gotten the better end of the stick in public - I just can't afford to do the private school thing.
I also think that if you talk to your son's teacher and ask for regular updates and things you need to work on, they will keep you informed. Most teacher really want your child to succeed and RISD has some of the best ranked Elementary Schools in the Metroplex area.
E.W. answers from Dallas on March 23, 2008
Just wanted to throw out my experience since I grew up in both public and private schools (my parents for some reason switched us a few times, but as a kid I didn't really know why). We went to mostly private schools until I was in 8th grade and I think that I got a lot more personal one-on-one time with teachers in the smaller classes. It was a comfortable to go to school in that type of environment (they were all schools affiliated with churches) and so I think my faith is stronger because of growing up learning the Bible along with regular lessons.
That being said, I did however feel that I missed out a bit as far as extra-curricular activites went (sports and clubs), since some of the private schools didn't offer much that way. It was harder to be a part of high school sports and activities since I didn't get to do them when I was younger. I am sure if the school you are looking at is top-ranked, they will offer a lot more, but that is one thing I would make sure to look at when deciding. My husband went to public school all the way through, and we both have our masters degrees, so education-wise I think both private and public offer equal opportunities, it's just the personal touch that private offers a bit better.
And to answer your question, yes you can go back and forth between private and public if you want, or switch private schools after a year or even during the year if you or your children don't like it. And I really enjoyed going to public high school even though I like the private schools when I was younger, so you might consider having your children go to private when they are little and then letting them choose public or private when they get older.
Sorry so long of an answer but hope that helps! If you have any other questions, I'd love to answer them.
R.W. answers from Denver on March 24, 2008
We have three children and two are at private schools. That said, the two schools could not be more different. Not all private schools are worth the tuition and you may get more by moving to a better school district. Our daughter's school is by far worth the very high tuition...what she receives in academics and "extras" is amazing. My son's school...not so much. I think (know) or local school system is far superior. We are planning on keeping our daughter in her private school and sending our boys to public school. What I saw in our local elementary was far superior in than many (again, there are a few exceptions in Dallas) of the private schools we visited.
You should know that districts like Plano, though highly, competitive...send many children on to Ivy League schools. Private school does not guarantee that. My advice is to visit the schools that you are interested and talk to parents that may not LOVE the school. Of course you are going to get the rosy picture when you go on a tour. Also...check out some public schools in the area. Of course Park Cities has a great reputation, but don't over look Plano, Love Joy.
Good luck! I know this is a hard decision....we have had many late nights debating this in our household!
J.G. answers from Tyler on March 24, 2008
You already had lots of wonderful advice, but I thought of these Sylvan and Kumon learning centers. If you wanted to stick with the public schools, maybe in the beginning your very smart son might need a little more assistance with the verbal. Its better to do these things while they are young and their egos don't come into play:) I saw tudoring as another suggestion. You are already being very proactive so I am sure everything will work out. Good luck!
J.G. answers from Dallas on March 24, 2008
My experiance is only with Public Schools and it has been great. My oldest one chooses to take extra test and always test highier then Natinal average. My Middle one has always struggled and we found he is Dyslexic, my youngest is a social buttefly and loves to learn and talk. I found in the years, I can spend more time at the school, it gives the teachers the chance to talk to me about how the kids are doing. Our ISD has email for each teacher. I start the first of the year sending a Hello and then they have my address. That way if they are grading papers in the middle of the night and see something I might need to know or watch, they can send it to me. Our school also sends home each Benchmark to be signed by the parent. That also let's me know if I need to call the teacher. I try to spend as much time at the school helping out as I can. Sometimes my job does not let me, and I love it, when the teachers say, "Hey, we miss you!" I would just make it a point to keep in touch with the teacher. Good Luck!
K.E. answers from Dallas on March 24, 2008
Have you considered home schooling? If you don't have time, you can hire a tutor for less or about the same than a private school. I'm a product of an excellent Department of Defense public school system and attended these schools all over the world. My husband went to an excellent private boarding school from the age of 8.When it came time to choose an academic path for our child we tried private , then public. We were unhappy with both. Private schools don't always have the best teachers and can be full of children who have a nasty sense of entitlement that begins at pre K. Public schools, by and large, are nothing like what we attented when we were kids. It's all about finding a fit for your particular child and whether private or public you will have to be very involved and ask questions constantly to ensure your child is getting even an adequate education.