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How Will Private Schools Survive? Part 2

By Avery Lawrence, DCschoolHUB Correspondent

In part one we went through some of the sobering statistics about private schools and their swift decline in popularity and enrollment. I like problems because they give you something to do: solve them. Also in part one I laid the groundwork for which schools I feel will survive and how. In part two we’ll dive deeper into which schools have the best chance of saying ‘welcome to the new school year’.

Which Ones Will Survive:

  1. The Apotheosized BIGs –  The big schools in DC proper that are sited in every Tanya, Dick, and Harriet article about DC area private schools. See part one for the full description.
  2. The Disrupters – Traditional is out. I want a school that allows students to zip line from class to class AND explain to me how brain research demonstrates how that improves cognitive functioning and will help my little bundle of joy be accepted to Princeton (Harvard is so overused). Seriously though, sort of, the schools that will survive are those who adapt to the desires of parents AND kids. Wowing families needs to be visible. Don’t believe me? Find out from your favorite private school what the CTR is of the webpage with the curriculum guide. I bet it’s way down there. At the top: 1. Tuition 2. Anything that reads exciting and you think your kids will want to do.

How Can They Survive:

  1. Lower your dang tuition! – Nuff said. See part one for the full description.
  2. Acumenical Studies – No, I didn’t spell ecumenical wrong. I don’t even know what that means. What I mean is that kids should be studying things that will actually help them become better people. English, yes. Math, yes. Science. Maybe. Social studies, ehhh. Let’s be honest, do you really need to know what a noble gas is or who shot JFK? They are interesting and if you want to pursue careers in science and history you should definitely learn about them. But how about PMI is, what about an ETF? I have yet to meet a 65 year old who wished they knew the difference between a cell wall and a cell membrane. I have met several 65 year olds who cannot understand why their retirement fund will only last for 5 years.

Old School vs. New School: Blyth-Templeton Academy

By Brett Graham, DC school HUB Correspondent

Private education has been around for more than 2,200 years. That’s a long time. Over the course of two plus millennia, the experience for students has changed. For me, sitting at my desk, forced to ignore those around me, speaking only when called on, and enduring reproach when I didn’t know 7 x 8 pretty much summed up my middle school experience.

Today, private schools are seeing another shift backed by research on how students learn best. From that research new schools are establishing themselves to push the needle in a much needed new direction.

There are a few schools newly established or on the horizon of opening that are testing the traditional and even progressive models of education. And over the next several weeks we will be highlighting some of them, including Blyth-Templeton Academy, BASIS Independent McLean, Fusion Academy, and Acton Academy.

Blyth-Templeton Academy (BTA), a high school in SE DC, officially opened their doors in the fall of 2015 with 50 students. Captained by well-known DC area power administrator, Lee Palmer, the school doubled its enrollment in 2016. Ms. Palmer was formerly the upper school principal at Sidwell Friends School and a highly decorated teacher before that. Some feel that BTA needed an established leader from an area powerhouse school to gain credibility. In an interview with DC school HUB, Ms. Palmer disagreed with that assumption.

“The reason I was a fit for Blyth-Templeton had less to do with my previous schools and more to do with my educational philosophy. What we’re doing here seems “new,” but in many ways it’s far from new. We’ve created a school based on what we know works: learning by doing, strong student-teacher relationships, and deeper learning that is connected to our students’ lives.” said Palmer.

So how is BTA different? How about classes maxing at 8 students per, learning only two subjects every 12 weeks, and class periods lasting 2 hours and 20 minutes. You might think 140 minute classes would get boring, but when you add in travel time around DC to make it experiential, time flies! “It’s not uncommon for students to visit the U.S. Capitol as part of a history lesson or explore math concepts at the National Building Museum. This type of experiential learning is woven into everything we do. It’s not just an occasional field trip, but a daily and weekly part of how our students learn,” said Palmer.

That all seems great, but what’s the price? 30K? 40K? How about less than $15,000 (are you listening every other private school in DC?). Don’t expect that price tag to come with a huge athletic complex or a 5-star dining facility. Those things don’t come cheap. But for 15K, it feels like you can get a unique education that prepares you more for the real world than most sit-at-a-desk-and-listen schools. In fact, there are no desks at BTA and according to Lee Palmer, “Every student has a “front row seat” and is noticed, included, and valued”.

You Are Not The Center Of The Universe

I’ve got a headline for parents and fellow teachers: You are not the center of the universe.

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.

I’ll start my gripe with parents. Most private schools have a day they invite grandparents to school. They used to call it grandparents day, but now it’s grandparent and special friends day. (the slippery slope to our ultra-inclusive society probably started with this). Anyway, a colleague told me that one of the grands couldn’t make the event at her school. So the grand sent an email to the HEAD OF SCHOOL asking her to read the note to the gathered grands and special friends AND to everyone gathered in the class. BTW, it was 3 pages long and full of what ‘granny had been up to’. The parents and grandparents were annoyed when the head of school declined to share the entire letter with the class. The head elected to have the teacher simply read it directly to the student at the end of the day.

So all of these grandparents travel far and wide so they can hear a letter about another child’s grandma? Hey granny and family: You are not the center of the universe!!!! My guess is that school won’t be receiving a donation from that family…maybe if they were in the above $1,000 donation club the head of school would have read the letter.

Now on to my fellow teachers. This happens all too often and it makes me crazy: teachers who dictate to the administration who they will and will not teach. For example, I have a colleague who will only teach the highest math group and refuses to teach those students in the lowest group. I get it, it’s more work, but guess what? THAT’S YOUR FREAKIN’ JOB!!! Get off your high horse. It’s not about you, it’s about the students.

Rant over, Merry whatever you celebrate.

pair_of_plain_toe_oxfords_from_allen_edmonds_shoe_company-274x300How to Pay for Private School – The Counter Intuitive Approach of Paying More

By G. Ruga, Editor, Paying for Private School: Tips and tricks for sending your child to private school

An article on the Joshua Kennon financial blog made me rethink my entire financial approach, and for the better.  He argues that is it better to purchase higher quality items and have them last longer than to always purchase the lowest cost item.

He used the example of Allen Edmond dress shoes for those of us slogging about the office and noted that Michael Bloomberg has had the same pair of dress shoes for 25 years.

There are two concepts behind it that work together. The first concept is high enough quality to be repaired. The second concept is cost per use.

I had first noticed the cost per use factor when I purchased high quality  wood furniture years ago (on sale of course) when I moved in college. A few years in, the draw pull broke off the desk. Previously, with my half glue, half sawdust furniture, that would be it. Eventually the whole thing would get moisture in it and then crumble requiring a new outlay of cash, gas, time and energy to replace it and send the old one to the landfill.

This desk seemed, well, stable. And there appeared to be a real nail there still sticking out! Bravely, I grabbed a hammer and 30 seconds later it was fixed. This was quite pleasing to me and I recorded two points on my man card.

This sequence with the furniture has been repeated many times and it still looks great 20 years later. I would have easily have gone through 3 sets of replacement furniture during that time frame – all of it lower quality and ended up spending more money over time. My cost per use is now just a few pennies and dropping each day.

So I diligently checked my expenses for the last few years on that shoe question. Couldn’t be much right? My lower cost shoes treads wore out often making them dangerous in wet weather and junky looking. I was stunned to see an annual outlay of $200 for a set of shoes (a black pair and a brown pair). Over ten years I had dropped $2000 on work shoes alone. What? And attempts to re-sole them as part of us trying to pay for private school (cut all the expenses was our mantra!) failed as the fine cobbler declared them to be too low quality to repair. Compare this to the Allen Edmonds which uses what they call Goodyear welting that enables them to repair and restore shoes repeatedly.

Indeed, they offer a repair  service and have a fancy name for it:recrafting. As an extra bonus they are made right here in the USA so I am supporting local companies.

This in turn results in a longer life for the shoe. You end up wearing a higher quality shoe that costs less per wear over time. Indeed, my fancy shoes have already lasted longer than my previous set would and, at this point, have paid for themselves.

Change your mindset from cheapest item on sale to cost per use. As a delightful side effect you will send less stuff to the land fill (your an environmentalist now!) and spend a lot less time replacing your stuff.


You can do this.