Saturday, January 24, 2009

Public vs Private Schools: Part I : The School Administration

As a child I went to both public and a  private school (a well known boarding school with an massive endowment in the 100's of millions!) and now as a teacher with over 8 years of experience, I have spent about half my time teaching at private schools and the other half teaching at public schools--inner city and suburban.  

There are many, many differences between public and private schools, in fact too many differences to summarize in a single post so in this post I'll focus on the main differences in the administration.

The school administration  is indeed very different. I must admit that I was much more impressed by the administrators at the private schools; they were invariably intelligent and reasonable people.  Now, I'm sure there are some very sharp public school administrators and indeed I've met them....but I've definitely worked with some public school admins that aren't the best and the brightest, something that seems a pre-requisite to be able to deal with the kinds of parents you get in the privates. Both public and private school administrators are about as political as you can get--but then again so is all facets of modern education. Pubic school administrators by and large are under great pressure to have their students do well on Standardized Tests (thanks in large part to No Child Left Behind).  Private schools, in general, do not have take the  state tests. Of course, students have to prepare for  SAT's  but by and large parents can afford tutors for this. 

Both types of administrators are beholden to the communities of their school environments. In inner city schools, parents are less involved and therefore have little clout, but in suburban public schools and all private schools I know of--the parents have significant input. So what pressures do these administrators have to deal with?

  • private - demanding parents, particulary mothers, who often have no job a lot of free time on their hands to make look into what their child's teacher is doing/what the schoool is doing. 
  • pubic and urban/inner city: - the two greatest pressure for the administration is how to get control of students  who often aren't interested in school and how  to get these same students to study and pass state tests!  
  • public and suburban : Often times, schools in wealthy counties like WestChester, NY or Long Island are very similar to private schools--wealthy constituents with invoved parents. The main pressures here are similar to private schools. Often times though, there is an portion of students in these schools who aren't motivated and who still have to take teh state tests--of course, there are unmotivated students at private schools--I taught some of them myself!  However, unlike the generally affluent parents of private schools, public school parents may not be able to hire an entourage of tutors to get their child to pass!  Therfore, there can be some additional pressure on administrators to try to get these students to do well on the state tests.

In the end, much of the pressures facing administration spills over into the teachers who, of course, are the front line.  That said, teachers can be a stubborn lot...regardless of private, public, or suburban!

In the end, all school administrations are political creatures affected by their environs. There isn't as much of a difference between suburban public school administration and private school administration,.

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