Getting Started

An overview of school designations, best practices for evaluating your options, and tips on choosing the best school for your child. Learn about Blue Ribbon, Vocational and Special Education schools. Get tips on finding the right school in a new neighborhood, city or state.
View the most popular articles in Getting Started:
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Which School Is Best: Public School vs. Charter School vs. Magnet School
Many people assume that public school and private school are the only two options but there are actually several kinds of public school. Keep reading to learn more.

There are nearly 50 million students enrolled in U.S. public schools and another 6 million attending private schools. Depending where you live, you may have the option to choose where you send your child to school, but how do you make a smart choice? The first step is to learn the difference between the different types of public and private schools. Once you have a deeper understanding of the options, you can think about your child’s individual needs and preferences to make the smart choice. Keep reading to learn about traditional public, charter, and magnet schools in particular.

The Pros and Cons of Public School

A public school is one that receives funding from local, state, and federal government funds which means that they are required to admit students who live within the district. A private school, on the other hand, is one that gets its funding from a private organization or from private individuals. This means that they are able to choose which students they do and do not admit based on whatever criteria they decide.

While private schools do have their advantages, you can tell by the statistics already mentioned that more students attend private school than public school. But what are the pros and cons of public school, and what are the different types? Below you will find an overview of the pros and cons for public school and the following section will provide information about two types of public schools – charter schools and magnet schools.

Pros for Public

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10 Advantages to Public Education
Public schools are far from perfect, but they still offer significant benefits to the students that attend their classrooms every day. We’ll list a few of those advantages here.
Public education has gotten a bit of a bad rap in recent decades, as many families are exploring other education options, like homeschooling, private schools and charter schools. However, public schools still serve a significant role in preparing the next generation of world leaders. Check out these 10 potential advantages a public school education can provide.
 
Cost
 
The cost of a public education can’t be beaten. Although some parents might complain about the recently added expenses of supplies and participation in sports teams, these schools are still much more budget-friendly than their private counterparts. According to GreatSchools.org, the average tuition for private schools in the United States during the 2016-2017 school years was $19,310. The average cost for a boarding school during that same year was $35,118. Schools affiliated with the National Association of Independent Schools charged even more.
 
This video looks at the advantages of public school.
 
 
In addition, private schools get additional funding through private donations. In many cases, this could mean parents of students at the schools may have to invest time and money in fundraising events for the school throughout the year. While public schools also participate in fundraisers, the bulk of their funding still comes from federal, state and local government sources.
 
Availability
 
Public schools provide access to an education for every child in a community. The Huffington Post notes that by law, public schools cannot turn students away based on academic performance, income level or disability. This ensures that
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What a National Blue Ribbon of Distinction Truly Means
Learn about the coveted National Blue Ribbon of Distinction and why it is an important education award.
Each year, the U.S. Department of Education recognizes hundreds of public and private schools across the country for their commitment to educational excellence and their ability to overcome outstanding odds to properly educate their students. These schools receive the National Blue Ribbon of Distinction, an award reserved for schools that boast students who meet and maintain high educational goals. The Blue Ribbon Award celebrates the idea that all students, regardless of background, ability or location, deserve an excellent education. The current winners are listed on the U.S. Department of Education website.
 
This video shows the 2013 announcement of Blue Ribbon of Distinction Schools by the Secretary of Education.
 
 
What is a National Blue Ribbon of Distinction?
 
According to the National Blue Ribbon website, "The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private K-12 schools that are either academically superior in their state or that demonstrate dramatic gains in student achievement." Schools at all levels – elementary, middle and high schools – are eligible for the award. Each school that is given the honor of a Blue Ribbon Award shares several key characteristics: they have administrators and teachers who are dedicated to high standards of learning for all students, they engage in data collection and analysis to determine the efficacy of instruction and assessment, they have students who demonstrate academic excellence, and they undertake professional development to stay at the forefront of best practices.
 
The award has been given out since 1982, evaluating student achievement
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Should My Child Enroll in Honors Or General Courses?
Honors or general courses? Find out which type is best for your child's learning environment and GPA.
When students choose their schedules for the upcoming school year, many parents worry over whether or not to enroll their child in honors courses. While honors courses certainly provide students with greater challenges, many students are forced to sacrifice higher grades for the cost of more rigorous academic experiences.
 
Ultimately, many schools and parents are confused over which is better: higher grades or greater challenges? Since earning a high grade in an honors course is more challenging than earning a high grade in a regular paced course, students seeking to establish their new schedules should heed the advice of public school and college admission experts.
 
Honors vs. General: What's the Big Difference?
 
While each state and school community has its own curriculum standards, most honors, and general courses respectively adhere to similar philosophical practices. For example, Wake County Public Schools, one of the largest school systems in North Carolina, divides its high school courses into "honors" and "academic" (average) tracks. In examining the differences in Wake County Schools' 9th grade English course options, for example, parents and students can clearly examine the basic similarities and differences between the honors and academic options.
  • Honors 9th Grade English: Students in both honors and academic are required to read specific texts from a county-wide reading list. An honors course, however, will generally read more texts than an academic course, as the honors course is conducted at a much faster pace. In order to work more rapidly through diverse materials, honors students
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Year-Round Or Traditional Schedule?
Which is more appropriate for your child? A year-round attendance schedule or traditional schedule? We look at the pros and cons.
For a variety of reasons, schools across the country are switching their schedules to a year-round curriculum, which means that both students and teachers no longer have the traditional two months of summer vacation. While some parents have enjoyed the year-round schedule, others are engaged in a heated debate about the new trend. Some schools are implementing the year-round program to maintain more consistent instruction, while other schools are switching in order to save money. While many parents are concerned about the potential change for their children and family, each schedule offers its own pros and cons.
 
This video from PBS examines the pros and cons of year-round schools.
 
 
The Year-Round Calendar
 
When using the term “traditional calendar,” most schools are referring to the most popular schedule, where students and teachers are able to have an extended summer vacation, in addition to the standard holiday breaks throughout the school year. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 86 percent of public schools in the United States operate on a traditional calendar, even though it’s the original purpose – so that children could help parents harvest crops – is no longer an important consideration. Since the traditional summer vacation is no longer “essential,” some experts maintain that continuing to use the traditional calendar is not what’s best for today’s children. As schools are now experimenting with the year-round schedules, many schools are getting rid of the traditional summer vacation, yet are simultaneously providing students with more frequent and
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Recent Articles
A new bill has been placed before New York state lawmakers by the Board of Regents, allowing undocumented students to receive financial aid for postsecondary education.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the financial impact of COVID-19 on public schools and what to expect in the future. We’ll talk about the effects of budget cuts and other challenges affecting the public school system for the remainder of this school year and into the next.
As the nation works to recover from COVID-19, parents wonder what the fall of 2020 holds in terms of the upcoming school year. Read on to learn some tips for preparing for potential challenges and to see the answers to some of the biggest questions being asked by parents of school-age children.
Evaluating Public Schools

Getting Started