With so many options to consider, choosing a school for your child can be challenging. There’s so much to think about, like the tuition, curriculum, extracurricular opportunities, and school values. You must weigh these factors and decide which are the most meaningful for you and your child.
Parochial, public, and private schools have unique advantages and disadvantages to consider. In this guide, we’ll explore the differences to help you find the right fit for your child.
Parochial School vs. Public School vs. Private School
Choosing the right school depends on your family’s unique needs. Here’s an overview of the most common educational institutions.
1. Parochial School
A parochial school is a private institution supported by a particular church, often associated with Catholicism. Some only admit members of the affiliated church or religion, but others include students of all faiths and cultural backgrounds. In addition to religious courses, they provide a standard curriculum of reading, writing, math, and science. Because they’re private schools, they collect tuition to fund their operations. However, Catholic parochial schools have some of the lowest tuition rates of all private schools.
2. Public School
Public schools attract the most students by far. In fall 2020, approximately 48.1 million American students attended public schools.
They’re government-funded, so they can’t charge tuition. However, they’re subject to rules and regulations set by the state government. Most parents choose public schools because they’re free and easily accessible. They must admit all children who live within the school district.
3. Private School
Private schools generate their funding from grants, donations, and tuition. They run independently from the government, creating their curricula without following restrictive policies and regulations.
In 2021, the average tuition for U.S. private schools was $12,350. Though the cost is often high, private schools have the freedom to provide highly specialized and advanced curricula. Most private schools require an application and are selective about who they admit.
Your child’s teachers play a pivotal role in their education. You’ll find excellent teachers at almost any school, but there are some differences in how public and private school teachers operate.
The government requires public school teachers to use approved curricula. They have limited control over what material they cover, but they can add a spin to make the content more interesting for their students. All public school teachers must earn state certifications.
Private schools have much more control over their curricula, so their instructors have flexibility over what and how they teach. Private schools often hire certified teachers, but they aren’t subject to government regulations. They have the freedom to hire people with real-life experience and industry expertise to teach some of their specialized courses — for instance, a former CEO teaching business principles or a successful actor teaching theater.
Since private schools typically enroll fewer children, teachers can provide individualized attention and support to their students. Many private school students form close relationships with their teachers, which helps them excel academically.
Parochial schools are also private, so their teachers have similar advantages. Some only hire members of their religious affiliation, but that isn’t always the case. For example, Catholic schools often hire teachers outside the faith for their standard subjects like math and reading. Alternatively, teachers that are members of the church can offer their experiences to help students learn and embrace their religion.
In the history of parochial schools vs. public schools, private schools tend to have smaller student bodies. In 2021, the average pupil-teacher ratio was 15.8-to-1 in public schools and 11.7-to-1 in private schools. Smaller class sizes allow private teachers to focus their attention on fewer students. They have more time to work one-on-one with students to improve their weaknesses and enhance their strengths. Smaller class sizes are ideal for children who thrive on individualized attention and support from their teachers.
Curriculum and Testing
The government requires public schools to administer standardized testing. Some of their funding hinges on compliance, so preparing for these exams has become a significant part of their curricula. Some educators feel that teaching to a test prevents them from customizing their curricula to their students’ interests and needs.
Private schools receive independent funding and don’t have to participate in standardized testing. However, a random selection of private schools must participate in the federal National Assessment of Education Progress. Still, they have much more freedom to tailor their curricula to their students’ needs.
The same is true for parochial schools. While the separation of church and state prevents public schools from introducing religion in the classroom, private schools are exempt from this rule.
The NAEP assessments measure private and public vs. parochial school performance nationwide. When you compare parochial school vs. public school test scores, parochial schools are the leaders across all subjects and grade levels. Private schools also scored higher than public schools in several subjects. These statistics indicate that schools can still be successful without rigorous testing throughout the year.
It’s also critical to remember that standardized testing isn’t always the best indicator of a child’s intelligence, creativity, and potential to become productive members of their community.
Whether they’re public or private, schools are free to choose which extracurricular activities they offer. Public schools typically serve more students, so it’s typical for them to be more diverse than private or parochial schools. However, that’s not always the case.
It’s also crucial to consider the quality vs. quantity of programs for students. If your child is interested in singing and playing an instrument, a music-based private school with no football team might fit perfectly. Alternatively, a child that enjoys music and sports would thrive in a school that offers both. When choosing a school for your child, look for one with the clubs and activities that interest your child.
Student and Family Characteristics
Children who attend diverse schools experience many benefits. They learn how to accept and embrace people of different ethnicities, religions, backgrounds, and cultures. They gain an appreciation for other opinions and perspectives, which is a vital asset in the professional world.
Public schools are open to everyone, so the student demographics often mirror the diversity within the school district. Private schools are selective about who they accept and have faced criticism for lacking diversity.
In 2017, the distribution of public school students by race was 48% Caucasian, 15% Black, 27% Hispanic, and 5% Asian. The distribution of private school students by race was 67% Caucasian, 9% Black, 11% Hispanic, and 6% Asian during the same year. Catholic parochial schools shared a similar distribution with a slightly higher Hispanic population. While many private schools are working to improve their diversity, public schools currently offer more of this quality.
CCA Blends the Best of Public, Parochial, and Private Schooling
CCA is a public cyber charter that could be the perfect fit for your family. We provide the diversity and inclusivity of public schools with the individualized attention and specialized curriculum of private schools.
As a public charter school, we can only teach religion from a secular perspective. However, we welcome and encourage religious expression. At CCA, students have the flexibility to learn at their preferred pace at the time that works best for their families. Families can even incorporate religious studies into their schedule among their CCA coursework.
Contact us today to learn more about how CCA is the perfect mix of public, parochial, and private schools.