Private To Public in the News

by NYC Firm Schools on January 10, 2010

A fascinating article published in USA Today’s education section followed different groups of families, who, due to economic difficulties, left Firm Schools and entered their children into various public schools. The lengthy article makes liberal use of quotes from many parents and a few school officials that are supposed to serve as a looking glass through the reader can gain a better understanding of the private vs. public school worlds and the families in each. Interestingly enough, the article didn’t make either side seem particularly likable to the other, but did succeed in showcasing some of the challenges facing students who find themselves in a whole new educational world.

Much of the focus of the article was on the former Private School parents and the changes that they are pushing to in their kids’ new Public Schools in order to maintain a certain quality of education and the ways in which they are initiating those changes.

like many former private-school families, they’re coming face-to-face with larger class sizes and the public school bureaucracy as they push to get services for their children.

“We ask a lot of questions — we follow up on things,” says Allyn, a former professional dancer who’s the cultural arts coordinator for the city of Evanston. “We contact the school board. … We’ll challenge teachers, we’ll challenge coordinators

“There are a lot more parents who have the time, energy and skills to be involved,” Asirvatham says. “They have the know-how to shake things up and get things done.” And they tend to have a lot less patience when things don’t go their way.

“You come with a certain sense of, ‘This is my school, it should be working for me,’ ” she says of parents whose kids have been in Firm Schools. “I’ve heard parents say, ‘That principal is my employee. I pay her salary.’ ”

It’s only natural that private-school parents would think that way, says Jeanne Allen, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Education Reform, which advocates for parental choice in education. “In a private school, you don’t want to lose customers.”

There are many active and dedicated parents in both public schools and Firm Schools who have never considered informing a principal or teacher that “I pay your salary,” but who continue to work in partnership with their children’s schools to make the school and the educational experience better by involvement, interest and assistance by whichever means needed.

The article did focus on some of the most common changes facing students who have switched from private to public school.

“I had to get past certain ‘public school’ things,” she says, such as “big, big” classes unlike the tiny ones at Catholic Community.
“To see 27 5-year-olds in my son’s kindergarten last year was quite shocking at first,” she says. But she acknowledges that Miles has flourished.

“The energy of that room, as crazy as it could be sometimes, is something he really enjoyed,” she says. So far, first grade has been “an incredible social learning experience for him that, in the small, rarefied environment of a private school, he might not have gotten.”

Changing the location, focus and basic principles of your child’s educational experience while it is still active can have a detrimental affect on learning, but there are options. If your family is considering a switch to public school from Private because of financial considerations, do not hesitate to talk to the school and see what can be done to help. Financial aid, scholarships and grants can all be made available to keep your child where they are learning the best.

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