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blog: Questions for private schools

Marty Lich
Vail CO, Colorado

What every parent should ask about their private school, whether it is a Christian-based school or a private charter school before you enroll (or re-enroll) your child.

Teachers: What are your private schools policies on hiring qualified or highly qualified teachers to teach their specific course studies? This is NCLB requirement in our nation, with good reason. An art teacher likely would not teach an advanced calculus course with much expertise for example.

What advanced programs does your school offer? Again, based on my experience they tend to be either titled:

A) Advanced Placement (AP) courses or

B) Distance Learning courses.

Who is accountable if the student does not receive enough in-class assistance from your school’s qualified staff members while taking these advanced courses, which both AP and Distance Learning are? The Michigan Department of Education says the following regarding their high school advanced instruction: “a student taking a virtual course must have an onsite mentor teacher who is “available to the pupil for assistance and to monitor the pupil’s progress in the virtual course. The onsite mentor must be a certificated teacher…”

Many school teachers are required to become certified in AP and Distance Learning to further assist their students during regular school hours. Often school principals are accredited as well. What does your school require?

What are your private schools written policy(s) regarding truancy, bullying, dress codes and other school infractions? Are these policies enforced? If so, how so?

Does your school drug and alcohol test their athletes prior to acceptance in school sports programs? Sometimes even perfect people aren’t perfect.

Often private schools do not own a bus for off-site outings and you will sign a waiver allowing your child to be transported by:

A) Staff members and/or

B) Other students and/or

C) Parents

Does your school verify the insurance and current driver’s licenses of each driver prior to taking your child off-campus? Who is responsible in the event of an accident? Who is in charge of your child while they are off-campus? ECSD offers this written policy: Concern and attention toward their own and the school system’s legal responsibility for the safety and welfare of students including the need to ensure that students are supervised at all times.

What is your schools written policy(s) on reviewing your child’s tests and final exams? Most schools hold these tests for review for a minimum of one semester. Are parents and students welcome to review these tests if they request to do so, either in writing or by appointment?

Does your school run background checks on their staff members? Are your teachers certified to teach?

What is your school board’s written policy on parental involvement/feedback concerning school decisions? The Eagle County School Board says this; “The public shall be kept informed of the progress and problems of the school district, and citizens shall be urged to bring their aspirations and feelings about their public schools to the attention of this body which they have chosen to represent them in the management of public education.”

Is there a policy in place for grievances at your school?

Remember: You are likely paying for this private school education if your child is not enrolled in a public school.

In Colorado, the CDE has these guidelines for teacher qualifications:

RE Teacher; :

1) Holds a bachelor’s or higher degree from an accepted institution.

2) Has completed an approved teacher preparation program at an accepted institution of higher education.

Just as important, what are your school principal qualifications? Schools and their staff are only as good as their leader. The CDE lists this as part of their principal qualification standards.

RE Principal;

1) The principal acts to effectively and persistently communicate the mission to the staff, parents and students;

2) The principal understands and applies the characteristics of instructional effectiveness in the management of the instructional program.

For the Colorado State Principal/Administrator Licensure, the CDE requires that the candidate graduate from an approved program of preparation, pass the state fingerprinting process, pass the Colorado PLACE exam for principal and have completed 3 years of work in a school setting as a licensed teacher or special services provider.

In fact the CDE states in part that principals must:

1) Ensure that all teachers know and use instructional best practices that promote all students’ learning.

2) Provide extra mentoring, monitoring, professional development, and nurturing to teachers hired through alternative and emergency certification.

3) Develop individual teacher professional development plans to ensure that teachers take the necessary coursework and receive the necessary professional development to teach the courses to which they are assigned.

4) Ensure that teaching assignments are consistent with a teacher’s qualifications.

Private schools can offer a wealth of new experiences and educational opportunities to their students. But it is a working partnership, just like any other business arrangement. Begin by asking a lot of tough questions and end by reading through all of the small print. If your school cannot or will not answer the abovementioned, then think twice before signing on the dotted line.


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