So you’re thinking about exploring the options afforded by private schools. But where to begin? How, you might ask, can I even know where nearby private schools are located? Happily, there’s a simple way to find out.
Every California private school offering instruction in any of grades kindergarten through 12 is required to file an affidavit, annually, with the California Department of Education. The information furnished in the affidavit is a matter of public record, and can be accessed through the CDE website. As you will soon see, the affidavit contains a wealth of basic descriptive information about a school.
It’s a bit of a challenge to find the CDE webpage containing links to the private school database, but we’ll make it easy for you. You can either click the link appearing below:
Or, you can begin on the CDE home page (www.cde.ca.gov) and click your way along the following path:
Home Page → Specialized Programs → Private Schools →
Private School Affidavit → Private School Data
If all went according to plan you should be on a CDE webpage titled ‘Private Schools’. In the center of the page you’ll see a subheading that reads, ‘Private School Directory’. Below, you’ll see a succession of links listed in reverse chronological order (with the most recent on top). At the time this post was written, the most recent link calls up information compiled as of May 6, 2015. Go ahead and click the link!
Clicking the link will produce a spreadsheet containing lots of great information about every private school that filed an affidavit last year. (Note: you must have a relatively up-to-date version of Microsoft Excel installed on your desktop computer, or handheld device, or another program or application that can display Excel spreadsheets. The best way to find of if you’re “good to go” is to click the link and see what happens.)
Schools are listed alphabetically, by county (starting with Alameda). If you’re viewing the spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel, it’s a relatively simple matter to scroll across to the “Zip” column, and re-order the listing of schools by their respective zip codes…which is the easiest way to find out which private schools are located closest to you. (Some columns may contain ‘scrunched up’ information. You may not, for example, see the full name of schools appear in column D. To fix this problem, point your cursor just to the right of the vertical line separating column D and column E (in the top row) and double-click. Column D should expand to show the full names of all schools appearing on the current screen.)
As you scroll through the column headings from left to right, you’ll discover that you can learn:
- the lowest, and highest grade levels offered by a school;
- the number of pupils enrolled in each grade level (during the preceding year);
- the school’s total enrollment (in the prior year);
- the number of full-time and part-time teachers;
- the number of administrators and other non-instructional staff;
- whether the school is constituted on a nonprofit, or for-profit basis;
- whether the school has a religious, or a secular orientation;
- the religious denomination with which a religiously oriented school is affiliated;
- the name of the school’s principal, head of school, or chief administrator (during the prior year); and,
Now that you’re equipped with some basic information, it’s time to dig deeper. Call a CAPSO member-organization to learn whether a nearby school is affiliated. If schools in which you are interested are affiliated, you’ll also be able to determine whether they are accredited, by whom, and for what term.
Most importantly, make appointments to visit the schools in which you are interested. There is simply no substitute for walking the grounds of a school, checking out classrooms (before or after regular school hours), learning about the school’s particular views regarding child development, philosophy of education, curriculum, instruction, assessment, school structure and governance. You’ll want to meet with school leaders to learn more about the school’s history and culture. You’ll wish to discuss your child’s disposition and needs, as well as your family’s values and expectations. And, if a school seems to be a good fit, you’ll want information about admissions policies, tuition, and financial assistance (if necessary).
Now that you’re set to go, we wish you every success in finding the school that’s the best fit for your child(ren) and family.