Take Two

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

9 things to know about private schools in LA

by Alex Cohen and Monica Bushman | Take Two

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Joel Ramirez, left, Joel Karchmer, Phyllis Castaneda and Hali Metelak discuss questions they posed about the learning environment during a workshop at Wildwood School. The workshop was based around the premise of the book Make Just One Change, which explores the idea of students posing their own questions about a subject instead of teachers formulating a question that all students should think about. Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

This week on Take Two, we've been exploring the vast and incredibly complex world of options out there designed to help educate kids in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Today, we're taking on private schools.

Christina Simon, co-author of "Beyond the Brochure: An Insider's Guide to Private Elementary Schools in Los Angeles," joined the show to tackle some questions:

1. What is a private school?

Private schools in Los Angeles can be either non-profit or for profit, but they are not tax payer funded. They are supported by tuition and other sources and sometimes also called "independent" schools. Private schools are accredited by various organizations like WASC, CAIS and NAIS.

2. What types of private schools are there?

Private schools fall into three types of educational philosophies: religious, traditional, or progressive. Traditional schools are focused more on academic achievement and generally involve more homework and testing. Progressive schools talk about a "whole child approach" to learning. There is usually more project-based learning, group projects, and the students may have a role in shaping the curriculum. Religious schools can be either traditional or progressive.

3. How many private schools are there in LA?

There are more than 60 non-profit independent private schools and about 10 for-profit. In the Pasadena area, there are about 40 private schools.

4. How much is tuition?

The average for elementary school is $25,000/year. For high school it's about $35,000.

5. Are there scholarships or financial aid?

Financial aid is generally need-based. In most cases, schools will offer a portion of tuition and expenses, but not full tuition. Financial aid can be very competitive and usually is a process that's separate from the application for admission.

6. What's involved in the application process?

There is a written application (with essays and teacher recommendation forms), and sometimes also parent interviews and observed child playdates. There can also be testing required for grades 5-12.

7. How many schools should I apply to?

It's a good idea to apply to 4-6 schools.

8. Are there other things I can do to help my chances?

It can be a good idea to go to a couple of events that are open to the community at a school you really like. Things like a book fair or a boutique. First of all, it'll give you a sense of the school, the teachers, and the families. Then in your interview or on your application you can say that you were there and you liked what you saw. You can also ask friends of yours to write letters of recommendation.

9. What happens when I find out whether my child was accepted or if I'm on the wait list?

You generally have about 10 days to two weeks to respond once you find out you got accepted. If you've been wait-listed at a school you really want to go to, you can contact the admissions director and let them know that if your child is accepted, you will choose that school. Most schools do take kids off the wait list.

Series: Good Schools

As part of its Good Schools series, Take Two looks at the education landscape in the Los Angeles area. That includes its public schools, magnets, charters, private institutions and dual-language programs. You’ll hear from parents, academics, teachers, kids and even a couple of TV show producers.

Read more in this series and let us know your thoughts on Facebook, or tweet us @Take Two and @KPCC with the hashtag #goodschools.

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