I went to public school. I teach in a public school. My kids go to public school. I make fun of my husband all of the time for his bougie, private school education. I think it’s fair to say that I’m more invested than most in our public school system. And yet I’m moving into the time of year when all I do is write recommendations, edit personal essays, and schedule interviews for my students’ private school applications. Why? Because I encourage all of my middle schoolers to apply to private school.
Choosing the right high school is important.
Many of my students do not live in areas where there are amazing public schools. Some of those schools don’t have great resources, and the graduation rate isn’t as high as it could be. So I encourage them apply to private school.
That’s because private schools may provide resources public schools cannot. Private schools may have alumni, teachers, or school families with access to certain networks or colleges and universities. There might be additional funding for activities, internships, or facilities that aren’t readily available at the public schools they’d be attending. With smaller class sizes, if my kids start falling behind in private school, there’s a chance that there are more academic supports to help them catch up.
But there’s one more, really important reason my kids need to apply to private school: because those schools need them.
My students are brilliant, artistically talented, and naturally curious. They are powerful writers, thinkers, and scientists. But my students also bring to the table perspectives and experiences that are far removed from the average private school student. Privileged students need to know students who have less privilege. Sure, my kids receive great benefits from private school, but they contribute tremendously, in tangible and intangible ways, to their private school communities.
My public middle school has a pretty impressive success rate. About half of our graduating eighth graders attend private high schools, all of them on full scholarships. The kids who go to private school end up in college; the record for their neighborhood school is much spottier.
And, as I’m proofreading applications and nagging about deadlines and frantically emailing to beg for additional parent materials, my former students occasionally wander into my classroom, wearing their high school uniforms. It seems that they come to complete their volunteer requirements, but they mostly scrounge around in my desk drawers to see if I have snacks. While they’re searching, they tell me about their college applications, their foreign exchange trips, or the amazing summer job they got through a friend’s mom. And that makes it all worth it.