Making public vs. private high school decision

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Jack FFR1846
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Wed Mar 04, 2020 9:42 am

Our older son went to private middle school, then back to public high school. In our town, the middle school has the nick name "the black hole" while elementary and high school are top rated. What we found after 3 years of private middle school:

Son was a full year behind in math because the private middle school didn't believe in accelerated math classes. (son is now about to graduate as an engineer, so was very good at math).
English....especially grammar at private were exceptional. Son will be one of those 1% of engineers who can actually write well.
Typing: The private school required "keyboarding" classes every single semester. Son has tested 120 wpm. The funny thing about this....my dad told me that the ONLY thing he learned in high school was typing. I took that to heart and made sure to take typing when I was in high school. It was one of the few useful things I learned in high school.
Athletics: The private school was very small, so athletics were less intense than our laser focused public school. Son did a few activities, not seriously. In public, he did well in soccer because he started at a very young age and like the rest of the town, he did spring and fall soccer, went to soccer camps in the summer and did indoor soccer in the winter. Anyone not at least this involved rode the bench. Too competitive for my taste. Son ended up being a great skateboarder and downhill bike rider.
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caffeperfavore
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by caffeperfavore » Wed Mar 04, 2020 9:50 am

Talk to parents from both schools. You'll find out pretty quickly what the pros and cons of each are.

If there's still no clear advantage, the public seems like a no-brainer. You can spend the $30k you save on some pretty enriching experiences.

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N1CKV
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by N1CKV » Wed Mar 04, 2020 9:52 am

From my experience, I would say public school.
I grew up in an area without a great school system.
I went to the best elementary school in the system.
I went to a Magnet program middle school.
I went to a Magnet program high school... and promptly was kicked out my freshman year because of grades (I was lazy and terrible at studying).

When I started at the "regular" high school my sophomore year I was in shock. Mid year they pulled me from regular science to AP because I was killing the curve while literally sleeping in class.

Here's the important part: I still came out with a great education. I learned that while it was helpful to be surrounded by students that cared and/ or were inherently smarter - I could still get a quality education if I wanted it, all I had to do was pay attention in class. I have plenty of friends who went to private school and never finished college. They no longer had the extra help private schools can provide. If they didn't focus on education the failed.
Thesaints wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 3:31 pm
I'd go with the private school in case you are interested in your daughter getting more acquaintances within a certain circle, if that indeed is the case with your private school.
I am unsure how important that is at the high school level, but I did make the same observation for those that went Greek in college vs. those that didn't. I think it is definitely a leg up at the college level to have Greek connections when it comes to starting a career.
For the record: I did not personally do the Greek thing, I was too busy with a full time school and full time work schedule running concurrently, but I can see advantages afforded to friends of mine that did go that way.

Luke Duke
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by Luke Duke » Wed Mar 04, 2020 1:31 pm

GeoffD wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 4:52 pm
Generally, a GreatSchools 10 just means that most of the students have college educated white collar professional parents. It says pretty much nothing about the actual quality of the school.

Generally, a highly selective academically oriented strong private school is going to cover a heck of a lot more material than any public school. Like anywhere else, you teach to the intellectual capabilities of the people sitting in the chairs. I'm New England so I'll refer to those schools. Phillips Andover, Phillips Exeter, Choate Rosemary, and Deerfield totally blow away the top-10 metro Boston public schools. If you can get admitted, it's an enormous advantage. There are also lots of far less selective private high schools in New England where it's no advantage at all compared to the best gold-plated suburban schools.
This sums up what I was going to post.

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LeftCoastIV
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by LeftCoastIV » Wed Mar 04, 2020 5:54 pm

First, a sincere and huge 'thank you' to everyone who has shared their thoughts and experiences. I have read every post, and they have all been helpful. We are leaning toward the public high school at this point, as I agree with the points on this thread that it is more about the student than the school, as long as the school has advanced coursework that a student can pursue and the school is generally well-run. Although every family is different, it's notable that our group of friends in the community (who are all generally successful in their chosen fields) will be sending their kids to the public school as well.

Why did we consider private school in the first place?
Our daughter expressed interest in the opportunity, and we agreed to tour schools and determine if it was something we wanted to pursue. I felt that she had "earned" the opportunity to look at private schools through her academic excellence and, like many parents, did not want to limit her future opportunity. We were not looking to escape a bad situation, or trying to address an educational issue that could not be met at the public school, nor were we looking to focus on a religious-oriented education.

We ended up applying to three private schools:
- an elite private high school (my alma mater) considered one of the best in this part of the country, if not the country, with a consistent pipeline to elite colleges. My daughter was not accepted.
- the small private school with a Christian philosophy that is the focus of this thread (e.g. the $30K/yr option), and
- a larger Catholic private high school (640 kids total). This larger school has a strong reputation for both academics, as well as supporting the kids in the school. In addition, they have a robust athletic program as well, including (I think) recruiting kids for athletics. My daughter has a friend here already from her extracurricular club team. Cost is $24,540/yr before other expenses.

I should note that we are not religious and did not seek out Christian-oriented options, but in our area there tends to be a correlation between private schools and religious orientation. We are also not opposed exposing our kids to this viewpoint so they can form their own perspectives on faith.

We met last night with a good friend of ours in a "leadership" position in the local school district who we knew would be candid about our options. This person was not "selling", but rather providing friend-to-friend advice. To our surprise, she mentioned that kids (and a teacher) who had formerly been at the small private school and then gone to public school struggled relative to their peers upon entry. In the case of the teacher, she found that the teaching expectations were more rigorous at the public school then the small private school. Needless to say, this caught my DW's attention.

Some people commented on the financial side, which is inescapable in the discussion. Although we are comfortable financially, we very much value our relative financial freedom and are conscious not to introduce significant new expenses (particularly, recurring commitments) into our lives. I do struggle with the notion of being "cheap" on something as important as education, however, knowing that we have an option available to us that many do not. Without a private school bill, however, this creates more flexibility for other enrichment activities (subject-specific tutors, pricey summer camps, travel abroad for a semester or summer course, etc.)
Last edited by LeftCoastIV on Wed Mar 04, 2020 6:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

psteinx
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by psteinx » Wed Mar 04, 2020 6:33 pm

caffeperfavore wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 9:50 am
If there's still no clear advantage, the public seems like a no-brainer. You can spend the $30k you save on some pretty enriching experiences.
I debated private school for 2 of our 3 kids (the 3rd seemed most comfortable/well served by public), but ended up with all 3 in public (youngest still in grade 9, but things seem to be going well).

Among other things, the fact that we DIDN'T have a big private school bill made me feel a bit more comfortable loading them up with various pricey summer activities, including Duke TIP (main offering is a 3 week summer program, runs about $4-5K nowadays).

psteinx
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by psteinx » Wed Mar 04, 2020 6:43 pm

Also, adding some commentary to upthread stuff:

Pros for a relatively large public, in a relatively prosperous community:
* Lots of AP offerings
* Opportunities to accelerate math
* Significant engineering and computer offerings
* Lots of available extracurriculars (not only athletics)
* Close to our home. Convenience in getting kid to/from school, and helps with kids' social circles being closer
* Cost

Pros (I *think*) from one or more higher end privates I looked into
* Lower student to teacher ratios
* More emphasis on writing, with teachers providing stronger feedback to kids' writing
* Higher % of students being strong achievers (yes, there's a significant pool of these at the public, and our kids were mainly in classes with other strong achievers, but the median kid overall likely stronger at the private)
* Stronger college counseling, I'm guessing, with more focus on highly selective colleges (our HS college counselor was more focused on inexpensive in-state public college options)
* Probably a more demanding academic environment in general. My middle kid is quite smart, but probably was not pushed as hard as he could/should have been at the public HS, and lacked the internal drive to push himself as hard as he should have.
* Religious instruction, depending on the school. Of course, this is a tricky subject, but it's important for some. That said, most privates I/we looked at most closely were secular.

(This list is not comprehensive, and the private stuff is a bit speculative, because we didn't send our kids to privates)

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DonCamillo
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by DonCamillo » Wed Mar 04, 2020 7:41 pm

There is a world of difference between an elite private school and a 2nd or 3rd tier private school. Unfortunately, those differences cost money. It would be extremely difficult for a relatively small school to out compete a good public school on only $30,000 a year tuition.

I served on an advisory board for the private school that Jack Bogle attended. Back then, Jack was serving as chairman of the board for the school. It is one of the relatively elite schools. Small classes, usually about 10 students, every teacher knew their students well, twice a year all of the teachers for a particular student met to discuss that student individually. The headmistress would give us regular progress reports on which student got into which college. A large percentage got into elite colleges. Great facilities. Dorms with resident faculty couples. 24 hour nurse on duty. Great sports programs, although best known for wrestling. They were building a new multi-million dollar sports facility at the time. Great golf course. Even had very good food for the students. Our board meetings were all day, and included lunch. Specialized programs; at the time, it was the only school in the state that I knew was teaching Chinese. It is a great school. But I think it is only appropriate for a student that either passionately wanted to attend there, or one that needed the peer challenge and academic excellence due to the student’s own interest.

After my 3 year term was over, I declined reappointment to the board. I was no longer interested in developing superbly trained and conditioned lab rats for the rat race. But a student could obtain a great education and start to build a great network there. I found my own career as a professor at a public STEM university much more fulfilling. My own education was at a slightly above average (I.e. mediocre) public high school. But the president of my high school class did have career earnings over $100 million, and another reached flag rank in the military.

Stick with the public school.
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stoptothink
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by stoptothink » Wed Mar 04, 2020 8:08 pm

DonCamillo wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 7:41 pm
I served on an advisory board for the private school that Jack Bogle attended. Back then, Jack was serving as chairman of the board for the school. It is one of the relatively elite schools. Small classes, usually about 10 students, every teacher knew their students well, twice a year all of the teachers for a particular student met to discuss that student individually. The headmistress would give us regular progress reports on which student got into which college. A large percentage got into elite colleges. Great facilities. Dorms with resident faculty couples. 24 hour nurse on duty. Great sports programs, although best known for wrestling. They were building a new multi-million dollar sports facility at the time. Great golf course. Even had very good food for the students. Our board meetings were all day, and included lunch. Specialized programs; at the time, it was the only school in the state that I knew was teaching Chinese. It is a great school. But I think it is only appropriate for a student that either passionately wanted to attend there, or one that needed the peer challenge and academic excellence due to the student’s own interest.
Didn't realize Blair was an elite private school, they recruit nationally for their wrestling program (probably the top program in the entire country).

MAandMEMom
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Re: Making public vs. private high school decision

Post by MAandMEMom » Wed Mar 04, 2020 9:33 pm

My daughter is about to graduate this year from among the list of what most would consider an elite school. She was also accepted but declined admission at what is arguably the most elite school in the country. She came from a public middle school for perspective. There are pros and cons. At the top of the heap, the facilities are unbelievable. In my DD’s short four year stint, the school built an amazing new athletic facility and a new wellness center just opened. Opportunities in areas like unique languages (DD takes Arabic) are unparalleled. But it’s a grind and it can be difficult to stand out for even the best students. Hindsight, I’m not sure...she has had an amazing experience and alums are a tight group, but...

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