Defining the Different Types of Schools

What's the best school for your kids -- public, private or maybe Montessori? Before you start investigating the increasing options, get yourself acquainted with today's terms. Education expert Bruce Hammond explains the differences.

A Ph.D isn't necessary to understand today's school options, but it helps. As the movement for school choice picks up steam, parents are confronted with an increasingly tangled web of overlapping terms. From the private, parochial, evangelical and independent to the sectarian, secular or new charter schools (not to mention Montessori) -- the plethora of school types can quickly confuse. Use our easy guide to get started on your search for a school that's perfect for your kids.

Charter Schools
Since the first charter school opened its doors in 1992, almost 500 of them have sprouted in all corners of the nation. The idea is to let private groups create a new breed of public school. For every student they attract, charter schools get the tax money the local district would have spent on that child. Charter schools are freed from most regulations if they pledge to meet satisfactory performance standards. An interesting collection of institutions sponsors charter schools -- from universities and nonprofit think tanks to Donald Duck and his friends at the Disney Corporation. Despite some predictable start-up glitches, President Clinton's education plan calls for 2,500 more charter schools by the year 2000.

Evangelical Christian Schools
Conservative Christian schools are the fastest-growing variety of private school in the nation. They cater to families who have become alienated from public education because of declining standards and/or the absence of Christian values in the classroom. Just over 600,000 students attend Evangelical Christian schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Since the families are generally not of the upper crust, tuition is often a bargain compared to other private schools.

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