Although the majority of religious schools in the U.S. are Catholic, there are also many private Protestant and Jewish schools. The fact that a religious school provides religious education — in addition to academic instruction — leads many parents to consider this option for their children.
Parents may feel that the impact of everyday exposure to religious values, such as reverence for God and kindness to others, is important to their families and can’t be matched by a once-a-week religion class. Perhaps as important for many families, religious education often puts academic lessons in the context of a faith-based life.
Why Religious Schools Are Great Fits for Some Families
For millions of families across the country, religious schools offer a number of benefits that make them compelling — even, at times, for non-practitioners. In some cases, they offer higher academic quality than district public schools at more affordable prices than their secular private-school counterparts. In others, they provide appealing sports programs or other extracurricular activities. Here are several factors that lead many families to consider a religious-school education:
Favorable Student-Teacher Ratios
Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that the average classroom sizes in private schools, both sectarian and nonsectarian, range from 9 to 12+ students per teacher, as opposed to an average of 15+ in U.S. public schools. This can translate into greater individual attention for your child. Keep in mind that these are averages, and ratios in some religious schools may match or exceed those in local public schools.
Often, religious school students remain with the institution from the early grades through high school. This kind of continuity creates a family-like environment and a sense of security that can allow kids to concentrate more easily on their studies. Having the same classmates over a long period of time can also foster lasting friendships. Additionally, students often have at least one common ground — religion — to build their friendships upon.
By and large, religious schools either require students to dress modestly or to wear uniforms. This means that there is less opportunity to flaunt economic differences or compete to impress fellow students with the latest fads and fashions. Uniforms also make it less expensive to buy clothing and easier for kids to dress in the morning.
High Levels of Parental Involvement
Religious schools often encourage direct parental involvement with children’s education. In addtion, funds for extracurricular activities are not always plentiful at religious schools, and parent volunteerism helps fill the gap.
How to Determine if Religious School is Right for Your Family
As you begin to think about which school would be right for your child, It’s important that you think about what your priorities are for your child’s education. Are you seeking a school that will provide a small class size? Lots of extracurriculars? A wide selection of elective courses? What are the characteristics of a school that your child values most? Make a list of what’s important to your family and use it to evaluate schools in your area.
Tour schools you are interested in and talk to teachers, parents, and students who attend the school to get an idea of what to expect. Take what you hear from others with a grain of salt; each person will have a unique experience at the same school.
Focus on doing your own research through using your priorities as a lens. You can use Noodle’s K–12 school search engine to find schools near you that match your criteria. Each school profile will provide information on the student body, educational quality, and cost.
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