Westminster School, a pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade private school located in Annandale, Virginia, offers students from all backgrounds the opportunity to access the educational resources they need to succeed. As the educational gap increases due to the pandemic, the school firmly believes private schools are uniquely positioned to help students and parents bridge this gap.
What Is the Education Gap?
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed multiple aspects of people’s lives, which include education and work. Many children spent most of 2020 either in a virtual classroom or not learning at all. According to this assessment, this contributed to 63 percent of parents feeling their child was behind academically, compared to a normal school year. (Half said a little behind, and another 13 percent said quite a bit behind.) Additionally, only 51 percent of parents were extremely or very confident their child is well prepared for the next grade.
According to this US Department of Education report, children in public K–12 schools during the pandemic experienced significant barriers to meaningful access and opportunities. This included problems ranging from a dip in daily instructional time to a curriculum not designed to teach new material but only to review what was already taught.
Taken in aggregate, this multitude of challenges public schools experienced contributed to a widening educational gap for many public school children.
What Advantages Does a Private School Offer?
Motivated by pandemic-related educational issues, many parents decided to transition their children from public school to private school. Based on their size, structure, and governance, private schools present several advantages, and these have helped children maintain a standard of learning and enter the new school year better prepared than their public school peers.
Reason #1: More Time to Prepare
Most public schools had to wait for confirmation about school closures and openings from their state officials. This led to uncertainty in public school staff, as well as students and parents. Because these public schools were waiting for an official word on how the school year would progress (in-person, virtual, or hybrid), they weren’t able to spend that time properly preparing for what the upcoming year would bring.
Because private schools knew their learning plan for the upcoming year, they could dedicate the necessary time preparing for that academic year, identifying ways to remain open safely during the pandemic, and implementing those plans—all well before opening their doors.
Reason #2: Increased Agility
One significant differentiator between public and private schools is the structure of governance. While public schools must navigate many levels of bureaucracy and must comply with federal regulations that don’t always meet the needs of individual schools, private schools are much nimbler and more agile.
This difference becomes more pronounced and impactful in an event like a pandemic. A public school must prepare, communicate, and implement any plan with the input and thoughts of many stakeholders. This takes time and often leads to differing opinions, which further stalls progress. A private school, however, operates with internal governance and far fewer hurdles. Based on size and structure, plans can be made and changes can be implemented more efficiently and effectively.
Reason #3: More Class Time
Almost 95 percent of private schools were able to open their doors during the pandemic, as opposed to 38 percent of public schools. Virtual schooling is undoubtedly better than nothing, but in-person class time provides more direct interaction with peers and teachers, both of which help students academically, socially, and emotionally.
Teachers are also better able to direct their classes in person, and they can more easily adjust their lessons in real-time to suit the needs of the class.
(For a discussion of in-person and digital learning and their relative pros and cons, see this article. For the specific benefits of in-person learning for preschoolers and very young learners, see this discussion.)
Sending children to school also positively affects parents. Most parents aren’t trained or equipped to teach their children at home, and juggling family and work responsibilities can take a toll. Private schools, by virtue of offering in-person classes, can take a significant amount of pressure off the entire family.
About Westminster School
Westminster School is a private school located in Northern Virginia. It was founded in 1962, and it is committed to helping children excel, in academics and in all other aspects of life. The school’s teaching staff and administration work closely with parents to form a “golden triangle” that provides a structure of mutual support and respect.
For more information about how the school plans to address the education gap, follow them on Facebook, call the school at (703) 256-3620, contact them via email at [email protected], or visit the campus at 3819 Gallows Rd. Annandale, VA 22003.