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How Will Private Schools Survive? Part 1

By Avery Lawrence, DCschoolHUB Correspondent

How Private Schools Will Survive - DCschoolHUB

The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, Draft Kings and private schools. One may already be extinct and two could be on their way out. Guess which one I’m going to talk about? Same thing Jim Young of Rueters kicked off his article with over 3 and a half years ago.

Private education as we have known it is on its way out, at both the K-12 and postsecondary levels. At the very least, it’s headed for dramatic shrinkage, save for a handful of places and circumstances, to be replaced by a very different set of institutional, governance, financing, and education-delivery mechanisms.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Private school enrollment in prekindergarten (preK) through grade 12 increased from 5.9 million students in 1995–96 to 6.3 million in 2001–02, and then declined to 5.4 million in 2013–14.

The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) reported a 70 student decline in average enrollment from 2014-15 to 2016 nation wide from 507 to 437. Myra A. McGovern, Vice President of Media at NAIS speaking exclusively to DCschoolHUB said, “For some schools, contracting enrollment is a strategic decision, based on the size and health of the market, how the school can best deliver on its mission, and more.”

Additionally, two sources, one who has served on a DC area private school board and a marketing colleague who has worked with private schools, have indicated a general decline in total enrollment and/or waiting list numbers in the Great Washington, DC area. “A lot of schools are scrambling to identify why their enrollment has gone down. For most of them they have the same wonderful program, there’s simply not enough interest at this time,” said my source who requested anonymity.

Even a check of our favorite board, DCurbanmom, indicates that schools are in a tailspin with no end is sight…and that some moms like their wine and anonymous cat fights midday-midweek.

So the question is, will private schools begin to shut their doors in the next few years? I believe the answer is YES.

Which schools will survive and how can they do it? That’s a great question, I’m glad you asked it!

Every few weeks I’ll provide you with a guide to ‘which will survive and how they can survive’. Here’s what we have for this week:

Which Ones Will Survive:

  1. The Apotheosized BIGs – You know which ones. The big schools in DC proper that are sited in every Tanya, Dick, and Harriet article about DC area private schools. Why will they survive? See last sentence and… They have little competition from DC public schools that go from good to terrible in one flick of my finger on Great School’s website. Big DC privates also have a very long history of sending kids to top Ivy League Schools. Lastly, if you live in DC you have some bucks and if you want a good education for your kid private school is pretty much your only option.

How Can They Survive:

  1. Lower Your Dang Tuition! – Sounds great, right? I mean the average tuition has tripled since 1991 from $7,749 to $21,453 nationwide (a number most greater Washingtonian private school parents would dream to pay). The problem is the cost to educate a kid has skyrocket too. Are you going to send your child to a school without laptops, tablets, or 3D printers? Schools had small tech budgets back then and certainly not a team of professionals caring for the equipment. Raise your hand if you were the director of marketing or communications in 1991 at a private school?…anyone? Not to mention the straight-out-of-college social media manager you need (nose ring and millennially-important wrist tattoo included). Have positions been eliminated from schools? Maybe the Director of Lamination and Mimeographing, that’s about it.

Back with more in a few weeks!

3 Important Life Skills Developed Through Extracurricular Activitiesextracurricular

by Dr. Lisa Lenhart, Ph.D.; Child Psychologist

This is the time of year that kids of all ages are making some decisions about whether to join a club, or team, or group of some sort (drama, marching band, etc).  These activities are healthy for kids in many ways, and offer opportunities for them to learn life skills.  Because all groups, teams and clubs encounter bumps along the way, children who have joined these groups have the opportunity to learn about flexibility and learn that it is okay if something is not exactly as expected- it can still be fun.

  1. Frustration tolerance comes in when the team does not win a game, or members in the club choose a different activity than the one a child desires, or when the child realizes that the skills required for the group are not intrinsic and there are many things they need to learn in order to be successful.   Being able to manage the frustrations that come with participation in a group/team such as this allows the child to develop the ability to tolerate frustrations in other aspects of his or her life.
  2. Communication skills are important on teams and in groups, just as these skills are important in life.  Within these smaller group settings, kids are offered the opportunity to engage in active listening- hearing what other people have to say, following up on directions or feedback, asking follow up or clarifying questions, and adding an additional comment or idea to the one proposed.  In the process of listening to other people’s ideas, children begin to develop greater capacity for perspective taking and recognizing that everyone has a different point of view.  Hearing many and different ideas being proposed provides children with real life exposure to the concept of perspective taking, and can help them develop a greater appreciation for the different perspectives we all have. Within any small group setting such as the ones being referred to here, the concept of team work comes alive.  All members need to find a way to work together and to create the sense of “we” and “team” rather than “I” or “me”.
  3. A Sense of Belonging is a very important aspect of joining groups or teams is the sense of belonging that children experience when participating in the group.  Finding people who have similar interests, whether they be art, music, sports, gaming, books, computers, or something else, is one solid foundation for developing friendships, and recognizing this early in childhood or adolescence helps create this foundation that will stay with them for life.

So in addition to perceiving these groups or clubs more simply as a way for kids to have something to do, remembering the life skills that can be developed in this context, and steering conversations about participation in groups to include the ideas included here will allow your child to develop a more conscious awareness of these aspects of social interaction and communication skills.  In this way, the experience is enriched and will clearly become an avenue for learning life skills.

32567-entitled-child-1200-1200w-tnEntitlement In Private School: The Newest Normal

by Ned the Noodge, The DC area’s premiere pain in the butt educator
The views of Ned the Noodge are his and his alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of DCschoolHUB and its employees.

One of my colleagues in the lower school was complaining at lunch about a new parent. She told me that the parent sent her an email 6 days into school with the following message (obviously I’m paraphrasing):

Dear [The Teacher’s Name],

Thank you for a great start of the year! My daughter enjoys your class, but her friends are scattered among the other classes in the grade. Per your school policy I’m coming to you first. I would like to have the following students moved into your class and the following students moved out:

Moved out – I’m totally making these names up

Huey, Duey, and Louie – these are the boys she’s been complaining about as being loud and bothersome.

Moved in – Again, totally making these up

Mary, Kate, and Ashley – my daughter really bonded with these girls at camp this summer.

Then it ended with something to the effect of ‘let me know when we can do this so I can tell my daughter’

The End.

Ummmm, where do I start?!? The big part of our discussion was the tenor of the email. Instead of being mean, vitriol, or accusatory it was like asking for a cup of sugar. Do parents know how much time and effort goes into creating a class schedule that works? Do they think we just through half the boys and half the girls in each class?

I know from experience that creating a schedule is like playing chess with your eyes closed. You can feel which pieces are which and generally where they are on the board, but…you get the idea. As teachers, this was our biggest stink.

But as a member of the human race, where does this parent get off thinking that just because her daughter isn’t happy with who is and who isn’t in her class that the school is going to make those changes? Obviously, the email was sent up the ranks. Then a few people popped into her room asking if the email was a joke.

So folks, here’s the skinny: If this kid gets her way she’ll have 8 jobs by the time she’s 30 because there was something wrong at each stop. And of course none of it was her fault.