Public school or private school (with school data)

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falcon
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Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by falcon » Sat Jan 30, 2016 6:35 am

Dear Bogleheads,

I would like to thank this wonderful community for the informative discussions.

We are in a dilemma about whether private middle and high school would better prepare the kids for college and beyond. I am interested in learning about your thoughts on this topic.

My kids attend public school. They are in grades 5 and 6. The school district is in a relatively affluent area. Spending per student and teacher pay at our district is among the top districts in the state. The district high school is in the top 3-4% in the state based on the US News/Newsweek best high schools ranking.

Both kids are in the gifted program at the school and seem to be doing well based on the assessment results we receive. I would say, academically, the 6th grader is in the top decile of the class but is not very well organized. The 5th grader is in the top quintile. There is scope for improvement in time management and study skills for both. They like to play sports recreationally but not competitively. They both have expressed interest in the medical field though that may change. We want them to get a solid education that will prepare them well for life.

We have been thinking if a nearby private school would better prepare them for college.

To help with the decision, I collected the following data for the public and private high schools: admission to selective colleges, SAT/ACT scores, AP exam scores. I realize that a student can get a good education in many other colleges and SAT/ACT/AP scores may not tell the whole story but we used this data as a starting point for discussion. We have toured the private school but we are still not clear which is the better place for them.

The cost of the private school increases from $25,000 in 6th grade to $30,000 in 12th grade.

1.
Matriculations to top 50 national universities and top 25 liberal arts colleges.
[The ranking of universities and colleges is from US News and World Report magazine.]

At the private school, there were 37 matriculations to top 50 national universities and 5 matriculations to top 25 liberal arts colleges. There were 91 graduating students. Percentage matriculating to the 75 institutions = 42/91 = 46.2%

At the public school, there were 24 matriculations to top 50 national universities and 1 matriculation to top 25 liberal arts colleges. There were 180 graduating students. Percentage matriculating to the 75 institutions = 25/180 = 13.9%

The flagship state university for our state is ranked slightly below the top 50 national universities. After including this university in the data, the gap between the schools closes slightly.

Percent of seniors matriculating to the 75 universities or the state university -
private high school: 4 matriculations to the state university. (42+4)/91 = 50.5%
public high school: 21 matriculations to the state university. (25+21)/180 = 25.6%


2.
Mean SAT scores -
private high school: 1916
public high school: 1788

Mean ACT scores -
private high school: 29
public high school: 25.1


3.
AP (Advanced Placement) scores -
private high school: Number of Exams: 292. Percent of grades 3 and higher: 80%
public high school: Number of Exams: 572. Percent of grades 3 and higher: 81%


Are the private school's results better because it imparts a superior education or because it admitted better students from more affluent families?
Would a given student perform equally well in the public school? Is it worth the cost? I look forward to hearing from you.

Best Regards.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by LadyGeek » Sat Jan 30, 2016 3:11 pm

Welcome! I moved your thread to the Personal Finance (Not Investing) forum which is better suited to answer your question.

Here are several relevant discussions:

- Is private high school "worth it"?
- Private Schools - Tuition
- Push child to avoid expensive college?
- Properly Assessing Public Schools
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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by stan1 » Sat Jan 30, 2016 3:30 pm

The data you present indicates to me that smart and motivated kids do well in both the public and the private school. A public high school with a class of 25 graduates going to those 75 schools out of 180 graduating seniors is a very different type of public school than most people have access to. Most public high schools have many more students. If the public high school has the AP and honors classes it sounds like a great option that you are already paying for in your taxes.

Kids do not need to go to a private high school or even a Top 25 college to be successful in life but if you have the money and can easily afford for them to have the very best why not go ahead and spend it now rather than leaving it to them as an inheritance?

This is anecdotal data but I'll just say that some friends of ours pulled their kids out of the "best" private school in my city because they felt it wasn't adding extra value. They were looking at $70K/year for two kids in private school. They decided to put the money into college instead (they aren't multi-millionaires but do make a good salary in a VHCOL area). Another observation they made was that many parents moved their kids in and out of the high priced private school regularly (e.g. go to private for 2 years, back to public for 2 years, back to private for 2 years to graduate).

Good luck. I think this is a personalized decision that you'll have to make to determine what's best for the needs of your kids. Sounds like you have one great choice that's free and a second great choice if you can afford the cost without jeopardizing retirement savings.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by Texas hold em71 » Sat Jan 30, 2016 3:43 pm

Your numbers don't adjust for socio-economic status of the student as you point out. Based on what you are saying about the public school that may not matter since you are in an affluent area.

Does the private school accommodate students with learning issues (ADHD, ADD, dyslexia, etc.)? If they do not do so, then they are screening the kids out who might have other reasons for not performing as well. If they require an extrance exam or certain test scores to get in, ditto.

Public schools take everyone and are obligated to get everyone to the national and state standards. Even with the dismantling of No Child Left Behind, that tenet seems to be holding on. No longer are public schools rewarded for bumping up the scores of the top students and ignoring the group with extra requirements. Take that into account when looking at the numbers.

Depending upon how your public schools do that, you may not like how it affects your kids. It may result in a lot of focus on prepping for that testing even for the kids who don't need it.

I don't see a big enough difference in the mean SAT/ACT scores of these two schools to warrant the difference in cost. I would expect more but the public school may be not encouraging less academically prepared kids to take the tests. The lack of difference in AP scores is very strange to me. Number of test by graduate is roughly the same and passing rate is roughly the same.

What percentage of the public school graduates go to college? You might consider those kids probably would not go to a top 50 in either scenario when looking at the public results.

You'll get a lot of opinions on public v. Private; small versus large; there is more to a school than test scores and admission to a top 50 universities is not the measure of or ticket to success.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by inbox788 » Sat Jan 30, 2016 4:28 pm

All good data, but I don't think the data to truly make an apples to apples comparison is ever attainable. Getting a common denominator is the most challenging part. Some fraction of the public school population is not going to college nor going to private school. If you only took the honor students at he public school, it may provide a better comparison, but it's hard to attain, and there's an additional bias element of selecting the data.

My personal belief that private schools make a small difference, but at a high cost. The monies which for some families may be better spend on other things that would make a better life impact. There's also the potential benefits and harms from private school education that you'd need to consider. And assuming public schools may be less competitive (i.e. your kid may not be the most competitive at the more challenging school, but might be student body president at the less challenging one), there may be additional opportunities vs being crowded out at more competitive environments (big fish small pond vs small fish big pond).
Last edited by inbox788 on Sat Jan 30, 2016 4:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by DonCamillo » Sat Jan 30, 2016 4:29 pm

I think the most important consideration is the quality of the student. That makes it somewhat difficult to compare public and private schools, as the students are not the same.

I served on an advisory board to the private school from which Jack Bogle graduated, Blair Academy. At the time, Jack was the chair of the regular board, on which a friend served. It is certainly a fine school, with exceptional opportunities. For example, I did not know of any NJ public schools teaching Chinese at the time, but Blair was. Class sizes were small and personal attention was constant. Every student was evaluated by a conference of teachers every year. School facilities, especially athletic facilities, are excellent. I found the faculty, administration and staff excellent. The placement record with good colleges was exceptional. The biggest non-financial cost of the the school is that it is mainly a boarding school, and I don't like to separate teens from their families. I would not send a child who did not already have the character, intellect and drive to make the most of the opportunity.

Another cost of a private school is that it is a closed, insular community, whereas public schools are more democratic and better related to the larger community. Students live near each other and form more open and wider circles of friends.

In choosing private schools, you may be moving your children into a relatively isolated sphere of society, where a large percentage of the child's acquaintances will go to similar schools, have similar careers, and live in similar affluent neighborhoods. I would certainly avoid putting a child into that society unless I was convinced that the child had the ability both to compete and to thrive in it. When my father retired from the military, he moved to a community that was then said to have the highest percentage of millionaires of any city in the country. I was not impressed with the friends that my younger siblings grew up with. (I had already left home.) Many of their friends suffered from affluenza, with symptoms that included alcoholism, drug abuse, lack of drive, depression, divorce, and alienation. Certainly, a lot of the children of privilege do well, but a lot also suffer from it. You are in a world where you are constantly being judged on your wealth, fashion sense, and personal achievement. The youngest son of my father's best friend was in his mid thirties, and had never held a real job. He wanted to be a Broadway producer. But all he really did was live on his Dad's money.
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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by dbr » Sat Jan 30, 2016 4:33 pm

I think you have to look in detail about what your children as individuals would gain from attending the private school or what is left out at the public school. It is possible there are opportunities there in the curriculum, projects and exposure to special activities, particularly talented faculty, and the benefits of the classmates they will associate with -- or not. I don't think analyzing statistics will tell you what you want other than reflect the demographic from which the students come in either case.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by TomatoTomahto » Sat Jan 30, 2016 4:34 pm

We are also in an affluent community with a top-ranked public that, for the most part, does well by its students. In my son's case, he was a late bloomer, and the public had him "tracked" as an average student during middle school. Apparently, once tracked, the public doesn't reevaluate.

He was accepted to a nearby private that accepts roughly 20% of applicants (ISEE scores, recommendations, and interviews are used to decide). Another thing that attracted us to the school was that their generous financial aid resulted in a more SES diverse student body than the public.

I would not place too much emphasis on % going to top schools, except insofar as kids are motivated and inspired by classmates. The private and public both sent 3 kids to Yale, even though the public had a graduating class 4x larger. But, in fairness, the private didn't have the 80% of applicants they rejected to bring down their average, and could cherry pick smart applicants in the area (including those for whom the financial aid was important). That said, and I have no way to prove this, but I believe that my son would not have been among the 3 going to Yale had he stayed in the public, but is happily enrolled there now.
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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by dbr » Sat Jan 30, 2016 4:35 pm

DonCamillo wrote:I think the most important consideration is the quality of the student. That makes it somewhat difficult to compare public and private schools, as the students are not the same.

I served on an advisory board to the private school from which Jack Bogle graduated, Blair Academy. At the time, Jack was the chair of the regular board, on which a friend served. It is certainly a fine school, with exceptional opportunities. For example, I did not know of any NJ public schools teaching Chinese at the time, but Blair was. Class sizes were small and personal attention was constant. Every student was evaluated by a conference of teachers every year. School facilities, especially athletic facilities, are excellent. I found the faculty, administration and staff excellent. The placement record with good colleges was exceptional. The biggest non-financial cost of the the school is that it is mainly a boarding school, and I don't like to separate teens from their families. I would not send a child who did not already have the character, intellect and drive to make the most of the opportunity.

Another cost of a private school is that it is a closed, insular community, whereas public schools are more democratic and better related to the larger community. Students live near each other and form more open and wider circles of friends.

In choosing private schools, you may be moving your children into a relatively isolated sphere of society, where a large percentage of the child's acquaintances will go to similar schools, have similar careers, and live in similar affluent neighborhoods. I would certainly avoid putting a child into that society unless I was convinced that the child had the ability both to compete and to thrive in it. When my father retired from the military, he moved to a community that was then said to have the highest percentage of millionaires of any city in the country. I was not impressed with the friends that my younger siblings grew up with. (I had already left home.) Many of their friends suffered from affluenza, with symptoms that included alcoholism, drug abuse, lack of drive, depression, divorce, and alienation. Certainly, a lot of the children of privilege do well, but a lot also suffer from it. You are in a world where you are constantly being judged on your wealth, fashion sense, and personal achievement. The youngest son of my father's best friend was in his mid thirties, and had never held a real job. He wanted to be a Broadway producer. But all he really did was live on his Dad's money.
These are excellent observations.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by yosh99 » Sat Jan 30, 2016 4:43 pm

Remember that the good data for the private school is somewhat skewed because students that don't live up to their high expectations are systematically eliminated. It's like if the students weren't able to get those kinds of scores or get into those kinds of colleges, they wouldn't be there anyway.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by Watty » Sat Jan 30, 2016 4:55 pm

Looking at the percent of students that go to the " top 25 liberal arts colleges" makes no sense because the selection of colleges often depends on what the parents can afford to pay, or the public school kids may be more career motivated and decide to go to strong science and engineering universities that might not be on your list.

Texas hold em71 wrote:Your numbers don't adjust for socio-economic status of the student as you point out. Based on what you are saying about the public school that may not matter since you are in an affluent area.

Does the private school accommodate students with learning issues (ADHD, ADD, dyslexia, etc.)? If they do not do so, then they are screening the kids out who might have other reasons for not performing as well. If they require an entrance exam or certain test scores to get in, ditto.
+1

If there are 91 students in the graduating class you also need to look at how many students are in the freshman class to see if there might have been selective attrition in addition to selective admission. I have heard of private schools encouraging low performing students to transfer to public schools as late as their senior year. As I recall there was even one extreme case where a student who was not going to graduate on time was convinced to transfer to a public school a few months before the normal graduation date.

There is no one situation that is right for every kid but with such a small graduating class the may not get as much of a chance to develop socially and they could feel overwhelmed when they go off to a huge college. Just because of the low number of students there will likely also be less chance that they will get involved with things like sports, drama, or after school clubs.

It sounds like the high school is a very good high school no matter what and they might have more of a chance to "shine" there instead of being an average student at the private school.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by livesoft » Sat Jan 30, 2016 6:08 pm

My spouse called up the Admissions office of a top-20 university and asked about two of the local high schools with regards to admission stats of the students. The high schools are top high schools, one public and one private. The admission officer said, "No difference in the graduates as far as admission to our university. Both high schools produce outstanding graduates. But ...."

The "But ...." was that for the private high school the kids were pampered automatically on track to apply for college and take a rigorous academic course load. For the public high school, with about 15 times more students than the private, parents had to guide their children into the most rigorous academic path as it was not automatic.

Our kids went public.
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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by FrogPrince » Sat Jan 30, 2016 6:28 pm

Lots of great advice here as usual. I have to say it all comes down to the child and parental involvement than the school per se. The public school has to take in all kinds of kids while the private gets to choose who to let in, and kick out the ones not keeping up. So the numbers should look better by default.

You will get better focus on your kid at a private school, but nowhere near the focus you as a parent can bring to bear, and so public school combined with parent focus will beat out the private. Of course, for some people, going to a particular private school is a mark of their status.

Honestly, this is a first-world problem! You have to great choices. Good luck.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by Northern Flicker » Sat Jan 30, 2016 6:31 pm

There are also non-academic aspects to success at a university, including having the self-confidence, self-reliance, and organizational skills to be successful, and having the social skills to be happy and well adjusted emotionally.

If the flagship state university in your state is ranked slightly below the top 50 natl private universities, then it is probably better than 2/3 of them.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by hyla » Sat Jan 30, 2016 6:36 pm

It seems like you are really fixated on statistics like average SAT scores and numbers of students going to exclusive colleges, which in my experience are not the most important factors in determining what a kid gets out of high school. Not to mention those statistics are so heavily affected by selection bias (private school only admits certain students, public has to take everyone in district) as to be fairly meaningless.

When making a decision, I think it is more important to look at what each school offers which would suit your children. Does the school offer advanced classes in subjects they are interested in, and a good variety of electives your children may enjoy? If you're kids enjoy sports recreationally, are there teams available for them to play on? What do parents and current students at each schools think about the social environment and the quality of the teachers? Would your kids be happier in a big school where they could find their own niche and group of friends, or at a smaller school where everyone knows each other?

Personally, I would lean towards the public school unless it has some major problem you have not disclosed, or there is some particular reason you do not think your children would fit in there. Everything you have mentioned about it makes it sound like a quality school, and I doubt any minor shortcomings it may have compared to the private school are worth 150k per kid. That kind of money would go a long ways put towards college, I got a B.S. and M.S. recently for far less.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by SleepKing » Sat Jan 30, 2016 8:07 pm

falcon wrote:The cost of the private school increases from $25,000 in 6th grade to $30,000 in 12th grade.
Dear falcon,

Holy cow. Unreal cost. I literally had my DW double check and we both gasped! I barely paid that much for medical school per year!

I tend to agree what many posters and personal friends have observed over the years:
-There are many, many students that come from public schools and go on to a great college and live productive lives
-There are many, many students that come from famous private schools, drop out of college, and have their lives fall apart

Why?

Various reasons we all can pick from.

I'd encourage you to take a deep breath, continue working with your children (who sound very, very capable BTW, congrats and continue to develop their talents!) and let them grow into their own person under your/spouse guidance. You will 'know' what the correct decision is when the time comes.

As for the 'statistics', I would personally view them as 'wow, there are a bunch of great students at both schools. I hope my children could work their way into that category wherever they go!'

In closing, you sound like a very dedicated and capable parent. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. LISTEN TO YOUR CHILDREN. Frequently, it is what people learn outside of the classroom, rather than inside, that truly guides their development and course of life!

Best,
Sleepy

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by inbox788 » Sat Jan 30, 2016 8:25 pm

Watty wrote:Looking at the percent of students that go to the " top 25 liberal arts colleges" makes no sense because the selection of colleges often depends on what the parents can afford to pay, or the public school kids may be more career motivated and decide to go to strong science and engineering universities that might not be on your list.
What is the source of the lists?
http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandrevie ... iversities
http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandrevie ... s-colleges

I think "top 50 national universities and top 25 liberal arts colleges" just about covers most "strong science and engineering universities". Are there particular schools that jump out? And if there were any such schools, I'd think private school students would just as likely attend in proportional numbers.
If there are 91 students in the graduating class you also need to look at how many students are in the freshman class to see if there might have been selective attrition in addition to selective admission. I have heard of private schools encouraging low performing students to transfer to public schools as late as their senior year. As I recall there was even one extreme case where a student who was not going to graduate on time was convinced to transfer to a public school a few months before the normal graduation date.
I figure some schools used techniques to make their stats look better, but his is a new one to me. :shock:
It sounds like the high school is a very good high school no matter what and they might have more of a chance to "shine" there instead of being an average student at the private school.
Exactly! Difficult choice for parents and students alike.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by am » Sat Jan 30, 2016 8:46 pm

Public school is good enough. If they are good motivated kids than they will get what they want in life without the price tag. The high pressured overachiever path is way overrated (I know).

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by itstoomuch » Sat Jan 30, 2016 8:55 pm

do the one with the IB program.
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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by neuro84 » Sat Jan 30, 2016 10:06 pm

DonCamillo wrote:In choosing private schools, you may be moving your children into a relatively isolated sphere of society, where a large percentage of the child's acquaintances will go to similar schools, have similar careers, and live in similar affluent neighborhoods. I would certainly avoid putting a child into that society unless I was convinced that the child had the ability both to compete and to thrive in it. When my father retired from the military, he moved to a community that was then said to have the highest percentage of millionaires of any city in the country. I was not impressed with the friends that my younger siblings grew up with. (I had already left home.) Many of their friends suffered from affluenza, with symptoms that included alcoholism, drug abuse, lack of drive, depression, divorce, and alienation. Certainly, a lot of the children of privilege do well, but a lot also suffer from it. You are in a world where you are constantly being judged on your wealth, fashion sense, and personal achievement. The youngest son of my father's best friend was in his mid thirties, and had never held a real job. He wanted to be a Broadway producer. But all he really did was live on his Dad's money.
Very well-stated, and one of the reasons I'm glad my parents (who were faced with a similar choice when I was in 6th grade) chose to send me to an inner-city public school. I made close friendships with people well outside my socioeconomic sphere. Those experiences helped me learn how to communicate with, and get along with, all kinds of people.

I like to think that in some way, going to public school made me a better physician. It sounds like you have already set the foundation for your children to succeed. If they are bright and motivated, they can do anything they want, regardless of where they go to high school.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by TomatoTomahto » Sat Jan 30, 2016 10:16 pm

SleepKing wrote:
falcon wrote:The cost of the private school increases from $25,000 in 6th grade to $30,000 in 12th grade.
Dear falcon,

Holy cow. Unreal cost. I literally had my DW double check and we both gasped! I barely paid that much for medical school per year!
My kids' school's tuition is $38k for 6-12. It is roughly the same at the 3 similar private schools in Northern NJ that I'm familiar with. Financial aid is given to a good number of students.
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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by TomatoTomahto » Sat Jan 30, 2016 10:27 pm

neuro84 wrote: I made close friendships with people well outside my socioeconomic sphere. Those experiences helped me learn how to communicate with, and get along with, all kinds of people. I like to think that in some way, going to public school made me a better physician.
In our public school, there is almost no SES or ethnic diversity. There are a few apartments in town that can be afforded by families of moderate means. The private school, able to draw from a radius of many miles and willing to provide financial aid to those families who need it, is much more diverse.

It is one reason we elected to send our kids to the private school. The private has 45% students of color and gives $2+M in financial aid.
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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by TXJuice » Sat Jan 30, 2016 11:59 pm

The kid/student matters more than the school. This applies to college as well.
There is no way a middle school or a high school is worth those costs (that's more than what I paid per year for undergrad and graduate school). This coming from someone who went to a great private high school after being in public school from K-8th.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by SpaceCowboy » Sun Jan 31, 2016 3:18 am

Your kids will do just fine at either school. What colleges they get into will depend much more on what they do and achieve in high school than which school they go to. If you go public, consider hiring an independent college counselor who has been both a guidance counselor and sat on college admissions committee with some of the money you save starting either freshman or sophomore year. That will make up for some of the difference in college counseling between public and private. Also consider donating some of the private school tuition savings on a tax deductible basis to the public school to help improve the school while you are there.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by Angelus359 » Sun Jan 31, 2016 7:57 am

So long as the local public schools aren't garbage, I'd go public.

Take that massive pile of money, put it in a balanced fund, and help your kids buy a home in a decade
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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by Dandy » Sun Jan 31, 2016 9:47 am

If the public schools seem good I would save the money and spend education dollars on college. As parents we want to do the best for our children. Private schools can offer more individualized instruction and even enhanced learning experiences that may not be the norm in public school. Children that are "gifted" can thrive in both types of schools. I would opt for public school unless the children are under challenged/bored. Usually, public schools in wealthy neighborhoods are worth a try.

There is a lot of peer pressure on the children and the parents to opt for private schools. I know there was in my area and it only gets worse for college choices. I saw a number of couples that could hardly afford it send their children to private grammar and high schools my guess is because of peer pressure and parental guilt. When everyone else is driving a BMW it can be hard to drive a Camry.

Oh and by the way the tuition for private schools are often the beginning. Lots of fund raisers might also be in the future.
All that being said many private schools are great if you can really afford them and especially if public schools don't measure up.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by TomatoTomahto » Sun Jan 31, 2016 10:44 am

Dandy wrote:There is a lot of peer pressure on the children and the parents to opt for private schools. I know there was in my area and it only gets worse for college choices. I saw a number of couples that could hardly afford it send their children to private grammar and high schools my guess is because of peer pressure and parental guilt. When everyone else is driving a BMW it can be hard to drive a Camry.

Oh and by the way the tuition for private schools are often the beginning. Lots of fund raisers might also be in the future.
All that being said many private schools are great if you can really afford them and especially if public schools don't measure up.
Re peer pressure: in our town, it was the opposite, and to the extent possible, we would avoid the topic of where our kids went to school. People were invested, figuratively and literally, in the high property taxes that made our local public system possible. The usual response, if people found out we were going private, was "why would you send your kids to private when you're already paying for a school system that is ranked among the best in the nation?" As though we were stupid and just wanted to waste our money. The private made a big difference to our two kids that attended, and each for very different reasons. Our town has excellent elementary schools, but the middle school is a shameful place that only some of the kids manage to get through intact.

Yes to the fund raisers being constant and a PITA. OTOH, that's how the school can afford to give lots of financial aid, which was a considerable draw for us.

We could afford the private without it affecting our ability to pay for college or save for retirement. If we couldn't, perhaps we would have tried harder to make the public work for us, but as it played out, it was a no-brainer for us.
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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by BillyG » Sun Jan 31, 2016 11:10 am

First I would like to say the OP's analysis totally misses the mark. It is not about the statistics, it is about what works for your kid. If it doesn't work for your child they will pay the price and you will too. So first teach your kids how to be resilient, have persistence, about limits and goals, about good judgment and good manners, and about happiness. Without that it won't matter what school you send them to.

I was firmly with the public school camp considering I live in a school district in which the high school consistently places in the top 10 public high schools in the country.

Then I saw things up close.

When there is a high performing school district lots of parents want to move there and the schools grow faster than the county can expand them. The class sizes suffer. I had no idea until I saw it up close. I was shocked to learn my daughter's French class had 38 students. really???? How can a teacher teach French to 38 students and how can they learn? They can't, of course...

Almost two years ago I switched our oldest daughter to a private school that "gets it" and understands how kids learn and what environment makes learning fun, and what type of environment helps kids respect and like being with each other rather than creating cliques... And the teachers there get it -- there is a reason teachers line up trying to become a teacher at this school... although the financial benefits and work hours are better at the public school.

But the private schools cost as much as college and this is something which I had not planned on paying... but part of the calculation has to do with how much your child's well-being is worth and doing what it takes to launch them on a good path. After all, a college fund is not very useful if the kid is not prepared to take advantage of the college opportunity.

This is not to say that I am recommending private over public. I was staunchly for public until I saw some of the effects up close and then I became a convert, but only in the specific case of our situation, our school choices, and our kids. One generalization that probably is true is that public schools generally do what is best for teachers and administrators and private schools tend to focus on what is best for the students, all else being equal. Class size really really matters.

I think you asked an unanswerable question because it all depends on what is best in your situation, with your school choices and your kids. The statistics won't give you the answer. Focus on helping your kids build good skills and resilience in a happy an nurturing environment, but not an over-protective environment. Let them take reasonable risks... heck, encourage them to take reasonable risks. This will grow their confidence and ability to handle new situations.

And although it may not appear directly applicable, check out this entertaining and eye opening TED video by an educator at Harvard who studies this sort of thing, and who has studied hundreds or thousands of kids who made it to Harvard only to find they were not happy and not ready for the real world. Think about how this applies to the child you are trying to bring up in world to be prepared for whatever faces him in the future, whether or not you are still around for them. In the video substitute "school" or "life" for "work."

https://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_t ... anguage=en

Good luck and enjoy every day with your kids!

Billy

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by Traveler » Sun Jan 31, 2016 11:23 am

There is no way I would pay more for middle school/high school tuition than what college costs, especially when you live in a top public school district. Not to mention that you are already paying a premium for your home because it is in that top district and you pay taxes for public schools too.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by TomatoTomahto » Sun Jan 31, 2016 11:39 am

BillyG wrote:there is a reason teachers line up trying to become a teacher at this school... although the financial benefits and work hours are better at the public school.
The most influential teachers my kids had were teaching at the private after successful careers elsewhere (Wall Street, Bell Labs, a chemical company, etc.) because they wanted to be there. I know that one of the teachers donates more annually than his pay. I don't think it's an accident that those are the teachers DS is still in touch with as a college sophomore.

I also was a staunch believer in public schools until I saw how the sausages are made. Politically I'm a liberal, and want to be a public school advocate. But, as a parent, it's not a good fit for my kids. Everyone's mileage will vary.
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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by TomatoTomahto » Sun Jan 31, 2016 11:47 am

Traveler wrote:There is no way I would pay more for middle school/high school tuition than what college costs, especially when you live in a top public school district. Not to mention that you are already paying a premium for your home because it is in that top district and you pay taxes for public schools too.
Traveler, we got that reaction a lot. I always wonder if people think that the reason we do it is because:
1 we're stupid and don't know that the well-regarded public is free (well, after $39k in property taxes)
2 we're insane
3 we're status crazy (which in our town is inapplicable; almost everyone can afford the private tuition easily)
4 our kids are precious special snowflakes (I dare you to call them that during a hockey game :D )

I'm at a loss to come up with a reason to do this unless we could afford it (we're on to college now) and find that it benefited our kids (which in our minds, it did).
Last edited by TomatoTomahto on Sun Jan 31, 2016 11:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by joebh » Sun Jan 31, 2016 11:48 am

IMHO your childrens' achievements are far more dependent on you and themselves than on the choice of schools.

Gifted (and non-gifted) children can excel in a good public school, and spending that kind of money on private school would be a waste (again, in my opinion).

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by TomatoTomahto » Sun Jan 31, 2016 11:54 am

joebh wrote:IMHO your childrens' achievements are far more dependent on you and themselves than on the choice of schools.

Gifted (and non-gifted) children can excel in a good public school, and spending that kind of money on private school would be a waste (again, in my opinion).
I agree wholeheartedly with the statement that their genetics, home environment, etc matter more than the choice of schools, when the choices are between two highly regarded schools.

Thought experiment: let's say that the private school would give the kids a 5% "improvement" in outcome (however you decide to measure outcome). If the tuition was not particularly painful to you (i.e., it will either be spent on tuition or added to the kids' inheritance), would you spend it?
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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by BillyG » Sun Jan 31, 2016 12:39 pm

Traveler wrote:There is no way I would pay more for middle school/high school tuition than what college costs, especially when you live in a top public school district. Not to mention that you are already paying a premium for your home because it is in that top district and you pay taxes for public schools too.
I said the same thing -- until we woke one day to learn the depths of our child's depression with her on the verge of suicide. Obviously there are lots of moving parts but you cannot say "you would never" do something until you learn your ideal world is not the real world. There was a lot more going on than the the public/private issue but this is something we could change. As expensive as it was it (along with some other things) saved our child. I'm not sure where that fits in your Investment Policy Statement.

Oh, she just accepted at a college that is giving her a significant scholarship that amounts to 80% of the private school tuition I paid over two years. Maybe it was a worthwhile investment, too.

Billy

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by joebh » Sun Jan 31, 2016 12:59 pm

TomatoTomahto wrote:
joebh wrote:IMHO your childrens' achievements are far more dependent on you and themselves than on the choice of schools.

Gifted (and non-gifted) children can excel in a good public school, and spending that kind of money on private school would be a waste (again, in my opinion).
I agree wholeheartedly with the statement that their genetics, home environment, etc matter more than the choice of schools, when the choices are between two highly regarded schools.

Thought experiment: let's say that the private school would give the kids a 5% "improvement" in outcome (however you decide to measure outcome). If the tuition was not particularly painful to you (i.e., it will either be spent on tuition or added to the kids' inheritance), would you spend it?
5% over what? Academic improvement over the public school? That's a tough thought experiment since schools can boast all they like, but none can say they will "give kids an x% improvement" in any area.

It would likely depend on the specifics of the private school and public school. We researched schools as my sons approached high school age.

In my part of the world, a fair number of "problem" students end up going to private school. And if they couldn't pass the state-mandated assessment tests (or if parents were afraid of the tests), the student often ended up in a private school. And if the parents thought their child could become a professional hockey player, the student often ended up in a private school. etc, etc. None of these applied to my sons.

And our public school offered some technology courses that weren't offered in any of the local privates. Since my son was very interested in software, that made the decision even easier.

Both sons ended up doing quite well in public school, got into their first-choice colleges, and are now adults with great careers and lives. No regrets at all.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by kir_royale » Sun Jan 31, 2016 1:14 pm

How does one locate the college matriculation results of the public high school? I'm curious now.

But for the OP's question in my experience top academics don't always mean it will be the best place for my children. The schools probably have different extra-curricular strengths, maybe different foreign language offerings, etc. It seems the are both equally capable of producing competitive college applicants if that's what your children end up being, so I would look at personality, extra-curricula offerings, languages, music, sports and pick based on that if your child expresses an interest in one of those areas. Otherwise, I would send them to public and re-asses as needed.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by mlebuf » Sun Jan 31, 2016 1:23 pm

falcon wrote: My kids attend public school. They are in grades 5 and 6. The school district is in a relatively affluent area. Spending per student and teacher pay at our district is among the top districts in the state. The district high school is in the top 3-4% in the state based on the US News/Newsweek best high schools ranking.
Based on the above paragraph, my guess is that your children will do well in either public or private school. The best schools are not necessarily either public or private. The best schools are the ones where parents care and are committed to seeing that their children get a great education.
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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by LadyGeek » Sun Jan 31, 2016 1:26 pm

^^^ I took care of the double posts.
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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by TomatoTomahto » Sun Jan 31, 2016 1:34 pm

joebh wrote:5% over what? Academic improvement over the public school? That's a tough thought experiment since schools can boast all they like, but none can say they will "give kids an x% improvement" in any area.that's why I said "however you measure" improvement. It was a thought experiment. No school I'm connected with is making any such claim.

It would likely depend on the specifics of the private school and public school. We researched schools as my sons approached high school age.

In my part of the world, a fair number of "problem" students end up going to private school. And if they couldn't pass the state-mandated assessment tests (or if parents were afraid of the tests), the student often ended up in a private school.
that might be different based on geography. Neither of my kids was a problem student. The private school accepts 20% of applicants! so very few "problem" students get through. My kids' SAT/ACT scores were all 99th percentile, so no fear of the state-mandated tests. And if the parents thought their child could become a professional hockey player, the student often ended up in a private school. etc, etc. None of these applied to my sons.Not my kids either. Heck, they don't even play for their college varsity teams. DS says he plays left bench on the club team.

And our public school offered some technology courses that weren't offered in any of the local privates. Since my son was very interested in software, that made the decision even easier.
that was the case for us also, although one did a fair amount of independent research/study; the other didn't.

Both sons ended up doing quite well in public school, got into their first-choice colleges, and are now adults with great careers and lives. No regrets at all.our experience also, although too early to tell about careers.
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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by sunnywindy » Sun Jan 31, 2016 1:41 pm

Send your kids to the schools that their friends go to, the schools that are in their neighborhood.
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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by TomatoTomahto » Sun Jan 31, 2016 1:42 pm

kir_royale wrote:How does one locate the college matriculation results of the public high school? I'm curious now.
In our case, Google gave the results up pretty quickly for the public.
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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by stan1 » Sun Jan 31, 2016 1:45 pm

sunnywindy wrote:Send your kids to the schools that their friends go to, the schools that are in their neighborhood.
Unless their friends are lazy, alcoholics, and drug abusers. Then send them somewhere else.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by Qtman » Sun Jan 31, 2016 1:55 pm

General statistics don't necessarily apply to individuals. We did public, private, Christian and home schooling with our kids. The key no matter where they go is to drive to be at the top academically.

Remember though, if your children have excellent grades (we hope), for top notch schools, so does everyone else applying. The differentiator is what have they done outside academics that sets them apart and enriches their lives and application.
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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by TomatoTomahto » Sun Jan 31, 2016 2:12 pm

Qtman wrote:Remember though, if your children have excellent grades (we hope), for top notch schools, so does everyone else applying. The differentiator is what have they done outside academics that sets them apart and enriches their lives and application.
Some of the larger top notch schools (UMichigan, for example) do base admissions to a great extent on grades and scores, but the more holistic admissions committees are, IMO, looking for signs of good character. 4.0s, valedictorians, high SATs, etc., are a dime a dozen; character isn't.
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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by jpa » Sun Jan 31, 2016 2:50 pm

I graduated from high school less than 10 years ago (so i'm not that old!), with a ACT score in the 97th%tile and am currently in medical school. I was homeschooled--a more rigorous curriculum than the local high school, for sure, but probably not more rigorous than the private school you are referencing.

The college admissions criteria are mainly going to be 3 things---ACT/SAT score, extracurricular demonstrations of leadership, and personal statement/college interview. Where your children go to school will not influence those things much at all. Those are qualities that are best developed by the parents and the student's motivation. I would save the 25k/yr, put it into 529 plans, and then when they want to become a Doctor/lawyer/MBA/Ph.D, etc etc you have enough funds to let them begin their careers DEBT FREE!

Start taking ACT/SAT prep courses in 10th grade, and send them on some unique experiences overseas and domestically, and they'll be light years ahead of their competition

Also---going to a Top 50 school is SOOOO overrated for most careers and graduate programs. In fact, most medical schools are aware that many top schools have a major problem with grade inflation and may hold it against applicants from certain "prestigious" schools

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by quantAndHold » Sun Jan 31, 2016 2:55 pm

It so sounds like your kids are the kind of kids who will do well academically no matter where they go.

Where will they do best as human beings? I suppose you need to choose the place that fits your personal values best. If you want them to network with the types of people who exist in that kind of private school, then you need to send them to that private school. If you want them to experience a more diverse environment then that private school is not the right environment for that.

I grew up in a wealthy urban neighborhood, and went to the local inner city high school. My family wasn't wealthy, but most of my friends were very wealthy. About half of my homies went to the local high school, and half went to the elite private school. For the kids in my circle, college admission outcomes were about the same regardless of what school they went to. As adults, the public school kids have lived more interesting and diverse lives. I don't know whether that's the result of their schooling, or because their parents set the example by living interesting and diverse lives themselves.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by MnD » Sun Jan 31, 2016 3:36 pm

The statistics for my daughters somewhat gritty, inner ring suburban and economically mixed big public high school were OK. But they failed to capture that 1/3 of the school students were from all over the metro area in the IB program and other 2/3rds were essentially attending their assigned regular big public high school. 4 of the 17 perfect ACT scores in the entire state came from that high school the year she was involved in the award.

Your kids outcome will largely depend on what they are made of, assuming they have the opportunities to challenge themselves and take advantage of them. How great the overall school stats are, thanks in large part to a $30K per year barrier to entry doesn't indicate much of anything in comparing it to a public school.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by cherijoh » Sun Jan 31, 2016 4:08 pm

falcon wrote:Spending per student and teacher pay at our district is among the top districts in the state. The district high school is in the top 3-4% in the state based on the US News/Newsweek best high schools ranking.

Both kids are in the gifted program at the school and seem to be doing well based on the assessment results we receive. I would say, academically, the 6th grader is in the top decile of the class but is not very well organized. The 5th grader is in the top quintile. There is scope for improvement in time management and study skills for both. They like to play sports recreationally but not competitively. They both have expressed interest in the medical field though that may change. We want them to get a solid education that will prepare them well for life.

We have been thinking if a nearby private school would better prepare them for college.

To help with the decision, I collected the following data for the public and private high schools: admission to selective colleges, SAT/ACT scores, AP exam scores. I realize that a student can get a good education in many other colleges and SAT/ACT/AP scores may not tell the whole story but we used this data as a starting point for discussion. We have toured the private school but we are still not clear which is the better place for them.

The cost of the private school increases from $25,000 in 6th grade to $30,000 in 12th grade.

1. Matriculations to top 50 national universities and top 25 liberal arts colleges. <-- IMO, these statistics are worthless since you have no information on the # of students that applied to these top schools. If you had enough public school students applying to the top schools, a comparison of acceptance rates might be meaningful, but raw numbers are meaningless for predicting whether attendance would aid your children in getting accepted to this caliber of school.

2. Mean SAT/ACT scores <-- Here the differences are more meaningful, but you still have some compounding factors. There is likely more parental involvement on average in the private schools. This means more kids probably either took the exam early enough to repeat if the scores weren't great or more parents paid for private test prep. You could get the same "benefit" at the public school.

3. AP (Advanced Placement) scores <-- This is the most "apples-to-apples" comparison and it shows no advantage for the private high school.

Are the private school's results better because it imparts a superior education or because it admitted better students from more affluent families?
Would a given student perform equally well in the public school? Is it worth the cost? I look forward to hearing from you. <-- I seriously doubt it is worth the money for your children in your current school district.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by randomguy » Sun Jan 31, 2016 4:11 pm

Traveler wrote:There is no way I would pay more for middle school/high school tuition than what college costs, especially when you live in a top public school district. Not to mention that you are already paying a premium for your home because it is in that top district and you pay taxes for public schools too.
Why does the cost of college matter? Either you have the money and want to spend it on your kid or your don't.


If you compare the top public school students (say the top 10%) to the same number of people in the private school (assuming it is some super selective one that only lets in the top 2% of iq people) and your results will be very close. Most private schools teach the same way the public schools do and get the same exact results. You do have the plus in that it is easier to kick out disruptive students.

Now some students do better in different environments. Who knows what group your kid falls into. A lot is chance (meeting that good friend, being inspired by some teacher,....) that is impossible to predict. As far as the cost, it depends. If that 200k means you have to put the Lambo purchase off 6 months, then sure it is worth the money. If it means you are going to work another 15 years, probably not. For the people in the middle, you have to make your own choice.

And frankly both groups are too biased to give you any decent feedback. Both groups want to justify their decision. No one wants to think they squandered their money and nobody wants to think they didn't do the best for their kids.

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Re: Public school or private school (with school data)

Post by inbox788 » Sun Jan 31, 2016 5:14 pm

1. Matriculations to top 50 national universities and top 25 liberal arts colleges. <-- IMO, these statistics are worthless since you have no information on the # of students that applied to these top schools. If you had enough public school students applying to the top schools, a comparison of acceptance rates might be meaningful, but raw numbers are meaningless for predicting whether attendance would aid your children in getting accepted to this caliber of school.
I wouldn't say completely meaningless, but trying to draw any inferences should be fraught with caution. Lightning does strike twice. Sometimes it seems like we're trying to avoid lightning in a thunderstorm or trying to capture lightning in a bottle.
Are the private school's results better because it imparts a superior education or because it admitted better students from more affluent families?
Would a given student perform equally well in the public school? Is it worth the cost? I look forward to hearing from you. <-- I seriously doubt it is worth the money for your children in your current school district.
If only there were a rational way to make these decisions or come to some conclusion and not rely on gut feelings and opinions. We're constantly having to make decisions with limited information and many variables and making the best of things. Fortunately, given the quality of students we're discussing, the outcomes are often positive regardless of the decision.
Watty wrote:...strong science and engineering universities that might not be on your list.
Despite the chaos of the current system, I think most strong science and engineering universities are on the list. Like the market, there is an invisible hand that's moving things along. I'm still curious if there are any strong programs that aren't on the list, and I haven't spotted any. I've looked at half a dozen candidates, only to find the on the list. You might think of these like undervalued stocks or call them hidden gems.

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