The Private School Alternative

By Craig Stone — March 01, 2003 2 min read
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While public schools tend to capture the national news spotlight—recently, with stories of severe budget cuts—they are obviously not the only place where teachers work. To wit: The National Center for Education Statistics has projected that at least 525,000 private school teachers will be needed in the next decade.

There are over 27,000 private schools in the U.S., educating approximately 10% of the nation’s K-12 students, according to the NCES. Most private schools are religiously affiliated, but a substantial number (about 20%) are nonsectarian. Some 80 percent of private schools are estimated to have enrollments under 300 students.

Unlike public schools, private schools develop their own criteria for hiring teachers. Not restricted by certification requirements, private schools’ recruiting net is generally seen as more accepting of recent college graduates and career-switchers who don’t have education degrees. The emphasis is customarily on academic achievement and leadership experience.

There are various ways to seek out a position in a private school. In an e- mail correspondence with “Career Coach,” Susan Booth, director of services development at the National Association of Independent Schools, said candidates can “apply to schools directly by utilizing online career centers where hundreds of jobs are listed. ... Other people find jobs through job fairs, search firms, and print and online advertisements.” (See resources below).

Other digital-age approaches also exist, such as the Independent Schools Association of the Central States’ online “e-staffing” program. This feature allows prospective teaching candidates to conduct a real-time interview online, the information from which is then shared with all ISACS schools looking to hire. (See resources.)

Private school advocates say teacher satisfaction in such schools is generally high. Asked to highlight the major differences between private and public schools, Ms. Booth said “some of the benefits that independent school teachers often remark on are 1) the ability to make a difference in the lives of their students; 2) autonomy and flexibility with their classroom curriculum; 3) highly motivated students; and 4) working in a close-knit community.”

Frederick C. Calder, executive director of the New York State Association of Independent Schools, has also emphasized private schools’ independence: “The point, after all, of being private is that each school can design its own mission, which in turn determines its character and motivates its practitioners.”

A 1996 study by the NCES found that private school salaries average at least 25 percent less that public school salaries. However, advocates insist that private school pay is becoming increasingly competitive. NAIS’ Susan Booth said that though salaries can vary greatly depending on years of experience and school type, the median salary for beginning teachers in NAIS schools is $28,000; the median for NAIS teachers in all regions at all levels of experience is $40,300.

The national average for beginning public school teachers is $28,986, and $43,250 for all public school teachers.


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