Evaluation of Private Elementary Schools in Washington, DC | K-12 Schools

In a city filled with lawmakers, diplomats, military leaders and other top government officials, it’s no mystery why private school is a popular option in Washington, D.C., even for families with young children. .

There were 72 private schools in Washington serving nearly 15,000 students in the 2019-20 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That’s up from the 2016-17 school year, when there were 58 schools and about 13,000 students.

“The environment in DC is selective but very prestigious and strong,” says Jason Patel, founder and CEO of Transizion, a Washington-based company that provides college counseling and career development. “DC has an above average private school system. There are many options. If you go to a city that’s the size of DC, but doesn’t have the same cultural impact, they won’t have the same ecosystem of private schools.

As parents continue to reevaluate their education options amid a pandemic that has significantly disrupted schooling, experts say many Washington families remain interested in private schools at all levels, including school. primary. Often this is because they offer greater flexibility.

“Public schools have a bigger ship to steer,” says EV Downey, an education consultant with more than two decades of experience in Washington schools. “If you have a school that has 500 to 600 kids, it’s a very different thing to be able to close or have in person.”

Smaller classes, more programs

Although experts say the decision to choose a public or private school is different for every child and every family, they point to many reasons why parents in the district might explore private options for elementary school.

Some parents are looking for a better school than the public option in their neighborhood. Many are also drawn to smaller class sizes, more individualized instruction, and additional programs in music, art, science, and other disciplines.

“The biggest thing about private school versus public school at this grade level is just that teachers are less stressed,” Downey says. “They’re just less overworked; they have smaller classes, fewer children to manage, and fewer reporting requirements.

Another allure of private elementary schools is the idea — not always true — that it’s the only way to get on to better middle and high schools later, according to Downey. “I feel like it’s definitely something that’s on people’s radar screens,” she says. “If you’re not going private for primary, you’re kind of shutting down.”

Downey also says some students simply need the more nurturing environment offered at some private schools. “I always say, ‘try public school and you’ll see.’ But if you have a child who just can’t get out into that larger environment, but really needs that attention, then private elementary school might just be what you need.

Cost can be a barrier

A major drawback of private schools, of course, is the cost. Average tuition for private elementary schools nationwide, including less expensive Catholic schools, is about $8,700 a year, or about $20,000 for nondenominational schools, according to the Education Data Initiative. . And in the neighborhood, as in other major cities, tuition fees can be significantly higher. For example, annual elementary school tuition at Sidwell Friends, one of Washington’s most well-known schools, is over $45,000 per year depending on the school.

While many schools offer financial aid, Downey notes that elementary school is a long commitment. However, she also says that many families are willing to pay for peace of mind.

“At the elementary level, you get the feeling that you’re doing your best,” she says. “I certainly know families who…say, ‘I can pay – why don’t I do the best I can for my child?'”

While some parents look for an advantage when their children apply to college years later, admissions experts say private elementary schools don’t always pass on that kind of advantage, at least not directly. Drusilla Blackman, a former dean of undergraduate admissions at Columbia University who now works as an educational consultant, says colleges are focused on high school.

“It’s really watching [grades] nine to 12 and what a student has done during that time,” she says. “That’s what gives you a sense of whether they’re mature enough and thoughtful enough…to manage in your school.”

Private Elementary Schools in Washington, D.C.

For parents interested in exploring Washington’s private elementary schools, here’s a sample of what’s available:

  • Washington D.C. Acton Academy is a Montessori-inspired school serving PK-8 grades in Washington’s historic Foggy Bottom neighborhood near Georgetown. The school location is a renovated townhouse on K Street.
  • Beauvoir, National Cathedral Primary School serves approximately 365 students in grades PK-3 with a focus on early childhood education. The student-teacher ratio is 6 to 1. Among Beauvoir’s offerings are a 17,000-title library for young readers; a program that teaches Spanish at all levels; and an average of 50 after-school enrichment classes each semester.
  • Capitol Hill Day School is a school a few blocks from the Capitol building that serves PK-8 grades. With approximately 225 students, it has a student-teacher ratio of 7 to 1. Classes contain 16 to 24 students, with two teachers per class in PK-4 grades.
  • Georgetown Day School is a PK-12 school founded in 1945 as the first integrated school in Washington, D.C. It serves approximately 1,000 students, 40% of whom are students of color.
  • The Washington Laboratory School is a PK-12 laboratory school affiliated with American University. It serves students with learning differences, emphasizing hands-on, arts-based learning.
  • Maret school is a K-12 college preparatory school serving approximately 650 students. It has a student-teacher ratio of 6 to 1 and an average class size of 16. The school is over 100 years old.
  • Nation’s Capital Milton Gottesman Jewish School is the only Jewish day school in Washington serving PK-8 grades. “We dive into Jewish life – from a lively early morning ‘tefillah experience with the founding texts of the Jewish people,” the school states on its website, adding that “we immerse students in Israeli Hebrew conversation, songs, poems and literature.
  • The river school serves approximately 220 students from kindergarten to grade 4, with a student-teacher ratio of 5 to 1. Between 10% and 15% of students have hearing loss, and the school offers audiology, occupational therapy, and other support teams disciplines.
  • Sidwell Friends School is a Quaker school serving approximately 1,100 students in grades PK-12, with campuses in Washington, DC and Bethesda, Maryland. The school is almost 140 years old. Among its many famous alumni are the children of several US presidents, including Tricia Nixon, Chelsea Clinton, and Malia and Sasha Obama.
  • Sheridan School is a progressive school serving approximately 225 students in kindergarten through 8th grade, with a student-teacher ratio of 6 to 1. Located in the district, the school also has a 130-acre campus in the Shenandoah Mountains for outdoor learning and exploration. Students begin to visit the “mountain campus” in kindergarten.

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