Robert E. Lee, B.S, M.S. and Ph.D., graduated from UC Berkeley in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. He is a local resident with an interest in science and socio-cultural issues.
No one can predict what education will look like in the fall of 2020. Will students have to wear face masks? Will there be full-time school, or will some teaching be taught online? Will children be held to rigorous standards? How will children be socially distanced? Will children have recess? Will children wear masks, be separated by plexiglass, or stay in classrooms during lunch?
The shutdown this past spring provided evidence of the negative impact of distance-learning on our children. A clear example of this is the “No Harm” grading resolution adopted by the Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) and many other public schools. “No Harm” says that students’ grades cannot drop beyond what they were receiving before the COVID-19 shutdown. Grades can only improve. For example, if a child received A’s in their class in February, they will receive an A at the end of the class; they do not have to do anything for the rest of the year. Students can get a D- and still have an A on their transcript. On the flip side, a student receiving a C before lockdown can potentially end up with an A by the end of the year. This policy, created during COVID-19 distance-learning, does not hold our children to the same rigorous standards as in-person learning does.
As custodians of our children, it is wise for us to do an annual evaluation to ensure that the choices we have made for our children’s education are the best for their current needs. So let’s assess the options we now have.
In addition to Public schools and Charter schools, which are under the control of the California Department of Education, there are homeschooling programs that may not be practical for many families. Therefore, this article will focus on the option of our local Conejo Valley private schools.
In the past, many chose private schooling due to religious objections to the secular curricula in public schools. Today, academic excellence and safety are additional motivations. The following list is just a few of the many reasons parents have chosen private schooling for their children.
1. Private schools have smaller class sizes, making it easier to customize the curriculum and learning rate for each child. In 2019, the average class size of our local Conejo public schools was 21 students per teacher. In private schools, the average class size was 7-15 students per teacher. With much smaller class sizes, teachers in private schools are better able to craft lesson plans to meet diverse student needs.
2. Private schools perform better academically than public schools. Students in private school score consistently higher on standardized tests than students in public schools. The ACT is a national college-admissions examination whose results are accepted by almost all four-year colleges and universities in the United States. In 2015, the average ACT scores of private school graduates well exceeded the scores for public-school graduates (23.8 vs. 20.7).
Not only do students from private schools outperform students from public schools in the overall ACT test scores, they also outperform across the board in the specific ACT subject tests. While students in private schools scored an average of 24.2 in English, 24.3 in Reading, 23.1 in Math, and 23.2 in Science, students in public schools scored 19.9 in English, 21.0 Reading, 20.6 Math, and 20.7 in Science.
Moreover, public schools struggle to meet basic learning standards. In 2018, only 21% of students in the Conejo Valley public school district (grades 3-8) met the State of California’s English Language Standard, and only 6.5% of students met the Math standard.
3. Private schools provide a safer environment for students than public schools. In 2014, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the US Department of Education, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in the US Department of Justice published a study comparing public and private schools. They found that in public schools, gangs are 10 times more prevalent, hate-type graffiti is 2.5 times more rampant, and student violence is more likely than in private schools. Studies show that private schools have less bullying, less physical violence, fewer instances of unwelcome sexual advances, fewer problems with drugs and alcohol, and less psychological abuse. Moreover, private schools are not required to teach “sexuality advocacy programs” that are now mandated in public schools.
4. There is more flexibility regarding vaccinations in private schools. Public schools require their students to obtain government-mandated vaccinations in order to attend. By contrast, most private schools allow parents to make important medical vaccination decisions for their children in consultation with their doctors.
5. With private schools, parents have the ability to select a school that matches their family’s core values and worldview. Many families reject government-mandated instruction for their children with ideologies that contradict their worldview on sensitive subjects, such as their perspective on teaching American history, the origins of human life, and human dignity as it relates to sexual ethics.
These are a few of many reasons parents have chosen private schooling over public schooling for their children. As the summer after COVID-lockdowns is coming to a close, the future of education may seem uncertain going into the fall. In light of this uncertainty, now is better than ever for parents to consider all their educational options for their children.