National Edition

How to find the right school for your kid

Published: Friday, June 6 2014 4:10 a.m. MDT

Updated: Friday, June 6 2014 9:36 a.m. MDT

Private schools have the privilege of the best books, technology, smaller classes and highly trained educators. The curriculum is typically much more challenging and there is less grade inflation. But those advantages often come with a hefty price tag. The average cost to send your child to a private school is $10,045. Religious schools run at the lower end, ranging between $7,000 and $9,000 a year. If you want to ensure a secular private education for your child, the Council for American Private Education says that you can expect to pay an average of $16,250 in tuition every year.

“Parents come to me wanting me to help them find a way to afford some high-brow private school,” Thatcher said. “Private schools have prestige and tradition and history, but what they don’t have is the same number of school days and accredited teachers. You really need to research private schools to be sure you’re getting what you’re looking for.

Thatcher said the real benefits of private school come in when a child has really struggled socially in public schooling or when a family is very religious and looking for a complementary education.

Beyond social and religious reasons for attending a private school, there is the improved chance of admission to a selective university. Research has shown that this is particularly true of upper income to middle-income boys looking to attend a highly selective university, where many more of the slots are given to girls and low-income students.

Making the decision

The U.S. Department of Education suggests a four-step process to selecting the right school for children.

“First you need to really consider your child and your family,” Samantha Dougary from the Department of Education said. “You have to think about what will be best for your child. You know him or her best, so only you really know what the best decision will be.”

Dougary suggested that you look at the type of environment your child functions best in. Does your child need rigid structure or does he do better with a looser pace? Does your child need to be challenged more intellectually or does she need help to finish projects?

Second, you need to gather information on the schools you’re considering. Every public school is given a report card by the state. This measures test scores and improvement or decline year to year.

Additionally, there are websites that give valuable information on specific schools and districts. Reliable websites are greatschools.net and publicschoolreview.com. Both websites allow you to search schools in your area, see their report cards, what other parents are saying about their schools and read forums on changing academic policies in your area.

The third step to choosing the right school is to visit and observe.

“Go to the school, talk with the teachers and principal,” Dougary said. “You should expect to be taken on a tour. Ask plenty of questions and watch to see how classrooms function.”

Dougary said that it’s best to not go during the first or last week of school or right before or after holidays to best see how teachers handle classes.

Look for whether or not the kids are busy and actively engaged. Be sure the teachers and administrators are friendly, and openly and honestly answer your questions. Dougary said that skirting around questions is always a red flag.

The fourth step is to apply to the schools you’ve had positive experiences with. Though elementary schools typically hold registration through early summer, only traditional neighborhood schools accept late registration.

EMAIL: nshepard@deseretnews.com TWITTER: @NicoleEShepard

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