There are many decisions parents need to make when selecting a private school for their children. It is not uncommon for parents to select their homes based on which public schools are designated for their neighborhoods. Selecting a private school eliminates a pre-determined school, but it often requires traveling a little farther and sometimes without bus service.
Selecting a private school also requires parents to make more decisions. Variations in tuition, hours of operation, certification of teachers, curriculum, religious versus non-religious, and school’s accreditation are all important considerations.
All public schools go through an accreditation process but not all private schools do. Accreditation agencies vary, and this requires a higher level of scrutiny for parents. Of course, if tuition is not an impasse, the choices abound for parents to find the right school for their children.
First of all, parents must visit several schools, the more the better. Then, observe classrooms, and speak with teachers when available. Ask about the turnover rate of the teaching staff as well as the teacher’s credentials. Observe classes in action either by sitting in the classroom or observing through one-way windows. It is important to always ask if the school is accredited and by whom.
When selecting our accreditation at Mill- hopper Montessori School many years ago, I chose the Florida Council of Independent Schools (FCIS) and the Florida Kindergarten Council (FKC). FCIS and FKC are professional associations that between them accredit pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, elementary and secondary schools. These organizations promote professional, ethical and educational excellence while assuring that their member schools maintain high standards and independence. This independence allows a school to set its curriculum and standards apart from financial and administrative governmental restraints. Because of this, innovative programs are more often seen in independent schools.
The evaluation and accreditation process of FCIS and FKC consist of a school’s self study using a rubric of the Council’s written standards. This is a lengthy process that requires teachers and parents to peruse all aspects of the school’s safety, finances, curriculum, staff qualifications, library, technology, instructional resources and facility. This self study is submitted to the Council and is followed by an extended visit to the school by a full evaluating committee. The committee consists of members of other FCIS accredited schools. The aforementioned occurs every five years for a member school.
Accreditation gives parents peace of mind, assuring the school’s integrity and that it has voluntarily chosen to put the welfare of the students first. It also guarantees that the school will not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, or national/ethnic origin in admission or hiring and will meticulously carry out all promises made to students, teachers, patrons or the general public.