Sunday, November 29, 2009

Public or Private?

There is a school affiliated with the the church I have attended all my life. I attended there for grades K-8 and received a great education. I attended a public high school and received a wonderful education there as well. Over the past couple of years enrollment has sharply declined, yet cost of enrollment has gone up (to compensate for the money lost by those leaving the school). Class size has always been small with, on average, ten to fifteen students a grade. My 8th grade graduating class was a class of nine. However, in the seventh and eighth grades combined there are five students this year. Where in years past there was a waiting list, this year there is a plethora of available seats. The total school for all nine grades has seventy-two students. To say the school is in crisis is an understatement. One of the options that is on the table is combining more than two grade levels in a singular classroom (currently K is alone as is 1st grade and second grade, third and fourth are combined, fifth and sixth are combined, and seventh and eighth are combined and even with the combined grades no classroom has more than fifteen students). To me this just does not seem like a wise move beyond the financial reasons. Combining second, third, and fourth, or fourth, fifth, and sixth or any other combination raises a couple of concerns.

First, there is a big age difference between a second and fourth grader. While only two numerical years separate those grades there is a vast divide when it comes to maturity and social development. I think it is a great disservice and potentially harmful for students to be shoved into a classroom with those that aren't technically their peers. My other concern is that now one teacher is responsible for teaching all subjects to three grade levels instead of one to two grade levels. Obviously, those kids are getting short-changed somewhere. In the time the teacher previously taught two grade levels, he/she now needs to teach three grade levels. I don't care how great of a teacher it is or how bright the students are something is falling by the wayside. Furthermore, one would now be paying the same price (or possibly more, if tuition yet again increases) for less instructional time. Eight hours of the day are now divided by three instead of one or two as they had been in the past.

By comparison, the public school system already has large class sizes. With our state proposing more budget cuts in education the chance that class sizes will again increase isn't just a possibility but a strong likelihood. While large class sizes at the high school level don't concern me as much, class sizes in the younger, formidable ages concerns me greatly. I don't want my daughter (who begins Kinder next year) to be one of thirty-five or forty kids and that is now a possibility. So, while the class size, even with three grade levels, would be considerably smaller at the parochial school the larger public classroom would at least have one to two teachers teaching the same grade level all day and not trying to divide his/her time between multiple levels. Plus, it's free.

While the parochial school has always been a possibility my husband and I decided months ago we would send her to the local public school and while I still feel confident in this decisions and feel that ultimately she would receive a better education, become more well-rounded, and be able to participate in more extracurriculars, I am waiting on the edge of my seat to see what happens to the class sizes as our state tries to deal with our budget crisis. On the flip side, cost is the primary concern of sending her to the parochial school along with what we feel to be an inferior gifted program, not as clear of a curriculum, and growing concern about class size (although on the opposite end of the spectrum....classes too small and being boosted in numbers by combining many grades). If this trend keeps up, it won't be long before it is a single room school house reminiscent of a time long since passed.

What are/were some of your concerns when it came to your children and education. Did they attend private, public or parochial schools? What led you to those decisions?


jodifur said...

Ironically, we are just now making this decision. We always assumed Michael would go to public school, as we live in a great school district. But he is having a lot of trouble in pre-school this year and kindergarten is 24 kids, which seems like an awful lot of 5 year olds. So all of a sudden I am researching private schools.

Joanne said...

We sent our children to parochial school K-8, then a large, 2000 student public high school. I've always felt parochial gives a really effective, strong education background enabling the students to later take on any educational endeavor. I also wanted them to have a good understanding of their faith, which is incorporated into the parochial day and affects how we live our lives.