Let’s face it, a large part of parenting is making tough choices — and regarding your kids’ education, it can seem like an overwhelming task. In a day and age (and area!) where we have so many different options for schooling, it can be difficult to discern which option is the best for your child.
To help make this process a little easier, we’ve compiled a quick list so you can know the different types of schools before you get started.
Public schools are a relatively low cost option for children and their families. City school districts are an asset to the community and remain the most popular option for families across the board. The most convenient aspect of this type of schooling is that many schools are close to home and often provide transportation for students.
Most public schools also provide different types of academic pursuits, such as postsecondary enrollment options, in which students can attend the nearest college to earn credits toward a degree while still in high school. Other offerings include job training programs, sports, drama, music and other creative programs.
In academics, school districts like Shaker Heights, Westlake, Cleveland Heights, Akron, Stow, and Alliance all offer International Baccalaureate programs in their high schools — some also offer the program in their elementary schools.
Northeast Ohio is home to some of the top schools in the nation — recently, Niche, a school ranking organization based in Pittsburgh, named Solon City School District as the best school district in the U.S. for 2017.
To find out how your local school district is doing, visit
niche.com or check the Ohio Department of Education’s annual school report card issued for every district each September. You can find 2016-17 report cards at reportcard.education.ohio.gov.
In recent years, online learning has seen a huge surge in popularity. Some parents are now turning to online programs instead of brick and mortar institutions. In Ohio, enrollment in an e-school provides a student with a computer, as well as a standard grade level lesson plan that is overseen by a licensed teaching professional.
There are numerous online learning academies out there designed to meet the needs of the surrounding communities. If you feel this option is best for your family, consider joining groups intended for homeschooled children to socialize.
Look for meeting information at your local libraries and community centers, or visit education.ohio.gov for a more comprehensive list of options in your area.
For those private schools with a religious affiliation, students also are provided a dual curriculum, allowing children to gain an understanding of the world within the framework and spiritual education.
Many parents enroll their students into parochial schools to further their involvement in a religious community. Instead of focusing solely on a traditional academic career, these schools also have an opportunity to provide their families with peers who share a similar faith. Students can come together and bond through shared ceremonies and celebrations in addition to working together in the classroom.
Janna Dorfman gives her perspective on how Jewish values enrich the education at Gross Schechter Day School in Pepper Pike: “Our curriculum is steeped in six core Jewish values, which reflect our commitment to Jewish tradition as well as to building a better world for all.”
Other Independent schools
Families choose to have their children attend private schools based on their own unique needs. Some parents might be looking for a specific experience, academic or sports, or for educational opportunities not offered in their immediate areas. Since private schools are financially independent, they are not held to the same standards as public school systems. This enables the institutions’ governing boards to determine how topics are taught.
“Private schools allow for far smaller class sizes and lower teacher/student ratios,” says Sara Stephenson, director of enrollment management at University School. “In a smaller classroom a student can be better known, better supported and more effectively enriched on a daily basis. Private schools also provide an increased sense of classroom freedom and enrichment. It is so important for a child to feel known and loved by the teachers and adults in a school. It is essential for teachers to be committed to educating the whole child — while that includes the academic piece, it also includes the social and emotional development of children.”
While it’s true that private schools charge tuition for students enrolling in their programs, many also offer scholarships or financial aid to help mitigate the costs of attending.
“Families should certainly look for hidden fees,” Stephenson says. “When a school’s tuition is published, parents should investigate any additional charges in order to get a far more realistic sense of the full cost of enrolling their child. Some schools, for example, ask for separate payments for field trips, even if they are for a full grade level and are part of the curriculum. Other schools have substantial technology or booster club fees that can drive up overall expenses. The school’s tuition payment schedule should also be investigated. How many payment plans are available? Are there sibling or early/full payment discounts? Do late fees apply?”
In addition to programming, private schools might offer different experiences even when it comes to the students who attend the school. For example, Beaumont School and University School offer single gender environments.
“When gender is removed as a classroom variable, a wide array of implications, direct or implied, can cease to be relevant,” Stephenson says. “Implied gender roles, real or imagined, have been proven to significantly impact a student’s performance, academic and otherwise. In a single gender environment, in our case for all boys, we embrace a ‘boy-centric’ or ‘holistically boy’ environment. When gender differentiation is removed, boys typically become a great deal more comfortable being themselves. This leads to boys having a higher level of comfort with relationships, pushing themselves out of their comfort zone and embracing their essential ‘boy-ness’ in a meaningful and positive way.”
Montessori schools focus on tailoring lesson plans to the needs and developmental abilities of each individual child. Instead of focusing on age-based grade levels, students are grouped together based on their cognitive development and are then guided by teachers who act more as facilitators on each child’s educational journey.
Matt Virgil, head of Hudson Montessori School, says the Montessori method allows children to learn at their own pace and that mixed-age classes “offer an opportunity for peer mentoring, collaborative work and social interaction.”
“(Teachers) encourage their students to be independent thinkers who learn for the love of learning, not merely a grade,” he says. “Honing this inner motivation helps them become successful in the world of college where independence is often a shock.”
No matter what school option you are considering for your child, the most important thing is how you feel the school will meet the needs of your child. Virgil notes that while a school’s track record and academic statistics are certainly something to be considered, more important is a school’s “ability to educate the whole child so that he or she can take that strong preparation and make a meaningful contribution to the community now and in the future.”
To see a list of parochial and independent schools in Northeast Ohio, click here.