What is the criteria to judge how "good" a school (public or private) really is?
There have been a few questions here about how to judge how good school systems are (either public or private) but what are you really judging them against? People move far and wide to be in "the best of the best" - but what is really making it "the best"?
Does anyone look or have data beyond standardized tests? If so, what is that criteria? What do standardized tests really reveal anyhow?
My current working hypothesis is that great schools are made by great teachers, great students & parents, and great onsite leadership; and just like a company or an online community, any one of these can pull the others up (or down).
Looking at and talking with teachers is how we picked our preschool. I'm sure if we had just looked for NAEYC accreditation (the only standard for preschools, set very high), we would have been fine. But we actually found a school that doesn't have NAEYC accreditation by taking a tour with the director, and talking with a few (3 or 4) of the teachers one-on-one, and we were (and continue to be) as or more impressed than what we saw of a couple of the local NAEYC accredited schools; plus it fits our scheduling needs.
This is our second year with our children enrolled and we continue to be blown away by the quality and enthusiasm of the teachers, the teaching / learning environment itself, the community around the school, and how much our children look forward to being there each day.
I'm hoping we can apply the same criteria to elementary schools, public (local & charter) and private. To all more advanced parents out there who've been through this already, what do you think?
Wow, such a good question and so tough to answer.
Lots of factors go into a good school: teachers, administration, funding, and the kids themselves, certainly. One tip that I got a while back was to look at the parent participation at a school. I'm not sure how to measure it exactly, but it does make sense: parents that put in time and effort into the PTA, volunteering in the classroom, and family events not only make the school experience better, but their kids will tend to care more about school as well.
My wife and I made a decision to move our son to a parent participation program this year. After roughly 3 months, we're already seeing a tremendous difference. More extra curricular programs (mostly run by parents), more field trips, more assistance for the teachers in the classroom, and more attention for the students.
The only other thing I can think to add is to talk to people who have recently experienced the school first-hand: teachers, the principal, students, and parents. It takes some leg work, but if you can get a few different perspectives that may prove valuable.
Real data, no. Real children, yes. This is how/what I judged.
Curriculum - I raised my niece, a wild teenager whom no one else could control. At that time she was enrolled in a public middle school, 7th grade. My youngest son, 5th grader, was still attending a faith based private school. He had the knowledge and ability to assist with her homework. Both boys attended public high schools. I demanded they take honors classes. I attended open house until my boys were juniors simply to review the books! It was amazing to me that what was being taught in 11th grade had been taught in the private school in 8th grade.
Testing - As for standardized tests, the public schools are more worried that the students pass which reflects on the school, rather than knowing the subject matter. Both of my boys were average students who did not enjoy school. Achievement tests were given in private school to recognized strengths and weaknesses of the students not the school. In public school they spent 2 weeks learning how to pass the tests!
Control and direction - Private school teachers had the ability to push the boys to excel like it or not. For example, they did not hesitate to hold them back from art, pe, or other elective "fun' classes if they did not perform. In 8th grade my youngest spent lots of time in detention after school where he was required to complete additional assignments for not completing work. Additionally, whatever talents were discovered, the staff encouraged participation and dedication. Teachers discussed students strengths and weaknesses. The encouragement was a group effort.
The public school teachers on the other hand were much more limited in their ability and/or attempt to push. The teachers usually have district wide rules that limit what they can and can't do. With a larger student body the teachers are less likely to ban together and encourage each students as a group effort.
To that group effect, relationships between parents and teachers in the private schools are on more of a personal or one to one basis with private schools. Conferences were held for all grades, including middle school. Tutoring was also done during the day and without additional costs.
Oct 27, 2010