Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Why rural parents put children in private schools

Are parents in rural communities increasingly seeing private education as the best option for their children? The numbers remain relatively low, about 6 percent for the 2003-04 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, but "the impact is great" because parents making the switch tend to be better educated and more involved in their children's education, reports Judy Owens for the Daily Yonder.

"Rural parents generally withdraw their children from the public system for two reasons: They believe that private schools offer a better education and/or they think that public education fails to teach ethical behavior, to instill traits like honesty and kindness," Owens writes. There is also a concern among rural parents that their children are not receiving a moral education in public schools. They are concerned by what "they perceive as the lack of principles, morals and leadership in the public schools," Owens writes.

This concern has been dismissed by proponents and those who work in the public school system. Brad Hughes, spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association, told Owens, "My own personal experience is that most of these people are the kinds of leaders who I believe most parents would be absolutely pleased with in administering their children's education."

There is evidence that children who are educated in private schools perform better academically. "A Harvard University analysis showed that private-school 4th and 8th graders performed better in math and reading than their public school counterparts," notes Owens. "Catholic and Lutheran schools showed the highest performance, but evangelical Protestant schools achieved parity with public schools in math and exceeded them in reading, the study said."

Rural parents are also disturbed by school consolidation. They view public schools as an arm of the government and not a part of the community. Dea Riley of Whitesburg, Ky., told Owens, "I felt a greater social and community connection with the private school than I have ever felt with public schools." (Read more)

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