First off, this is rather a meaningless assertion to begin with, since there’s no such thing as a “typical” public school. Because the American public school system is acim tremendously. The fact is, however, that, depending on what indicator you choose to use, many public schools outperform private schools.
It is important to understand that knowledge has no address. Knowledge does not “reside” in one location or another. In fact, now that the internet has broken down nearly all the barriers that once limited information access, this reality is more true than ever. Your child can get a first class, quality education from your local public school.
Saying that private schools are “better” than public schools is a lot like saying that books you purchase from Barnes & Noble are “better” than those you obtain from your local public library. The knowledge, the access is the same. It’s what you (and your child) do with the books that matters. Likewise, it is what you and your child do with your public school that will determine his or her educational outcomes.
Frankly, we think that blaming your child’s public school if your child is not achieving academically is a lot like blaming your gym if you’re out of shape. It’s not the fault of the institution; it’s what you do there that makes the crucial difference.
Your child can absolutely still obtain an Ivy league-worthy education from the public school system. That’s assuming that he or she is willing to work hard in the top level classes, of course.
Myth #2: “Private schools have better teachers than public schools.”
Let’s address this one head-on. Recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics indicate that public school teachers are better educated than private school teachers with more experience, on average. For example, public school teachers are more likely to have a master’s degree than private school teachers.
Public schools experience less teacher turnover, mainly because public school teachers are much better paid. This means public school teachers are more experienced. Also, Public schools require professional credentials for teachers and administrators. Many private school teachers work there because they lack the required credentials for a public school job.
It is undoubtedly true that public schools have their share of teachers who are duds, so you are going to have to be proactive about seeking out the best teachers for your child. Stay alert and stay in touch with guidance personnel to steer your towards the most talented teachers.
Myth #3: “My child will meet bad influences in public school.”
It’s true that public schools have to serve everyone, including students who have no interest in learning. But they don’t have to serve them all equally. Because of tracking, every public school of sufficient size has “schools within the school”–subsets of high achieving students who take classes together. The environment within this subset is entirely different from what exists in lower-achieving classrooms.
It’s also a mistake to assume that private schools are filled with high achievers. Many children in private school were placed there precisely because they failed to do what they needed to do to achieve in public school. Some even go to private school because they were expelled from public school! This is certainly not the minority, but it does happen.
Don’t kid yourself into believing that private schools somehow insulate your children from bad influences. Depending on the student culture, the environment in a private school can be extremely decadent, anti-intellectual, and drug-fueled.