A tale of two schools…


Jenna Liu

Students, faculty explore differences in public and private education.
There comes a time when every child starts school, and with it comes some big decisions. Kim Getzoff, the mother of junior Emily Getzoff, struggled with this choice right before Emily entered kindergarten.
The Getzoff family lived in Little Rock, Arkansas at the time and Kim Getzoff said the location played a part in her and her husband’s eventual decision to send Emily to private school.
“Little Rock has a large number of private schools that competed with the public schools,” Kim Getzoff said. “There was a perception that the K-8 public schools weren’t as academically challenging for the students and a lot of the parents we knew already had children in a private school.”
After spending six years at a Little Rock private school, Emily Getzoff and her family moved to Columbia, where Emily immediately enrolled in Columbia Independent School (CIS).
She attended CIS from sixth through ninth grade before switching to RBHS her sophomore year, and said that while RBHS offers more options in terms of course variety, the CIS environment fostered more personal and mentor-like relationships with teachers.
“I think there’s more quantity of education at public schools, like different classes to take, but I think at private school you get more attention and more one-on-one focus,” Emily Getzoff said. “In that way, it’s a lot better.”
The argument that private school teachers have the ability to give their students more attention is one that junior McKenna Neville vehemently agrees with. Neville also said this translates into a better education program.
“Teachers in private school just seem to like their jobs way more,” Neville said. “They challenge you more as a child and then you’re more organized because of that.”
While Neville, who attended Christian Chapel Academy for seven years, was firm in her belief that private schools offer a better academic education, a 2007 study titled Are Private High Schools Better Academically Than Public High Schools conducted by the Center on Education Policy yielded slightly different results.
The study primarily found that when a family environment was controlled, private school students did not score significantly better than public school students on achievement tests in core subject areas and were not more likely to attend college.
Kim Getzoff agreed that a student’s family background is often the main determinant of his or her success and said the advantages of her children’s private school education stemmed more from a competitive, culture fostered by the parents of students.
“Our private school focused on academics and was fairly expensive, so parents tended to be highly educated professionals and business people who expected their children to excel,” Kim Getzoff said. “Because the parents tended to be motivated to ensure their children excelled academically, they tended to be involved with volunteering in the classroom and the school.”
In addition to the potential academic benefits of private education, Neville also prefers the environment and culture of private schools, which she said provide fewer opportunities for bullying.
“I feel like private school has more friendly people because everyone there has kind of an understanding and you’re less likely to be made fun of for what you’re wearing because everybody’s wearing the same ugly uniform,” Neville said. “In public school, people are more cliquey, and they’re kind of jerks.”
In contrast Emily Getzoff said her experience in public school has provided her with many more chances to meet new people and grow socially.
“There are more clubs and generally more people,” Emily Getzoff said. “At least in my private school, it was a really small one, so I grew up with the same 20 people in my grade for five years. We got really close, but some of us really hated each other.”
Taking into account this social aspect of school systems, as well as their inherent academic qualities, Kim Getzoff said she believes public education is still better as a whole. However, she also said parents weighing between public and private school do consider a myriad of other factors.
“Public education strives to educate every child regardless of socioeconomic status, class, race, religion, etc. I believe a democracy needs a well-educated populace,” Kim Getzoff said. “That being said, it varies on a case-by-case basis. We tend to want what’s best for our children, and if I am in a school district with a great public school then that is where my child will go. If my local public school has a poor academic situation or discipline problems and I can afford a great private school then I will send my child to that school.”
Having spent her academic career in both private and public schools, Emily Getzoff has had the best of both worlds. She said she had great experiences in both environments, and if given a choice, would not be able to decide between them due to their varying natures.
“They’re so different on a social level and an academic level,” Getzoff said. “You can’t really compare them.”
By Jenna Liu