Public vs. Private Schools

As a school psychologist, many parents consult with me for advice about placing their child in a public or private school.  I work with most of the schools in our area and know them well.  We are fortunate that most schools in the Jupiter/Palm Beach Gardens area have a high reputation for delivering quality education to children.  The decision to go public or private really comes down to the characteristics of the child, the school environment, and the individual teacher.

Every child is different so when parents consult with me, my advice is specific to each child and their qualities.  In general, children with learning differences such as dyslexia and ADHD can be successful in public or private schools as long as they receive accommodations.  These are things like extra time to complete homework or tests, preferential seating, not taking away recess, and reduced spelling lists.  Each child needs different supports and the school must provide the support your child needs.

While most schools have a solid educational reputation, parents must tour the school, talk with the administration, and get a feel of the school atmosphere.  Does the school have a caring environment where staff members are concerned about the emotional as well as academic needs of the child?  If it is an elementary school, are parents allowed to volunteer in the classroom?  Can parents eat lunch with their child?  How does the school discipline children?  These are important questions to ask because they provide information about the context of the school beyond their reputation.  Select a school that welcomes parent involvement in the classroom.  These schools have nothing to hide.

The third factor to consider in a public versus private school decision is the individual teacher.  Regardless of reputation, all schools have some teachers that are stronger than others.  You want to make sure your child has a strong teacher with qualities that mesh with your child.  While most schools do not allow parents to request a specific teacher, you want to be at a school where you can meet with the school administrator and discuss the type of teacher that would best fit their child’s characteristics.  Once the administrator knows your child’s unique needs, he or she can decide on the best teacher.  If the administrator will not meet with you to discuss your child’s characteristics as they relate to next year’s teacher, look elsewhere.