Public and Private Schools Should Learn From One Another In Improving Support for Their High Schools

I was reading the sports section of USA Today the other week and the listing of top 25 High School Football Teams in the country. It was interesting to note that seven of the top 25 high school teams (or 28%) were private or parochial schools.

This led me to research how this compared with recent USA Today’s rankings of top high school teams in other sports. Here’s what I found.

In Boys’ Basketball, a whopping 16 of the top 25 high school teams (or 64%) were private or parochial schools. In Girls’ Basketball, six of the top 25 (or 24%) were private or parochial schools. And in Baseball, nine of the top 25 (or 36%) were private or parochial schools.

Why is this, I wondered?

Is it because there are more private and parochial schools in the country? That’s definitely not the case because according to Department of Education statistics, there are approximately 2,000 private and parochial high schools in the country compared with roughly 30,000 public schools. In other words, just 6% of all high schools in the country are private or parochial. The other 94% in the country are public schools.

Could it be then that the average private or parochial school is larger in terms of enrollment than their public school counterparts? Nope. The average enrollment in a private school is between one-half to one-third of the average enrollment in a public secondary school.

What then accounts for the superiority of private schools versus public high schools in sports relative to the number of schools and their enrollment numbers?

In my experience in attending and/or working with both private and public high schools, I would submit to you that there are four main things that private schools routinely do that public schools don’t, rarely do or don’t do as well:

1. Private schools regularly cultivate a sense of superiority.

Private secondary schools have done an exceptional job of positioning themselves as superior. This has led to the perception that they are. And as they say, perception is or can become reality.

2. Private schools regularly cultivate, communicate with and engage all of their various constituencies.

Private schools, as a practical matter, have to regularly reach out to and engage all of their constituencies – current students and parents, prospective students and parents, alumni and alumni parents and others as well. As a result, there is a much greater sense and depth of loyalty and tradition in private high schools than there is in most public today.

3. Private schools regularly recruit students.

As a matter of survival, private high schools have also had to regularly showcase their programs and schools and recruit potential students whereas most public don’t and don’t feel they have to.

4. Private schools regularly and more professionally raise funds from all of their various constituencies.

Private high schools have also had to, as a matter of survival, routinely raise funds from all of their various constituencies. Most have even hired staff members that are specifically trained and devoted to doing this. Consequently, they approach fundraising in a more professional way than public schools do today. As a result, they raise more money than public schools do, which has enabled them to somewhat level the playing field – resource wise so-to-speak – with their public school counterparts. In addition, because this money is voluntarily given, there is a greater sense of commitment to the schools and programs contributed to by their constituents.

Public schools can and should learn from this. To raise their games so-to-speak, they should take these plays from their private high school counterparts’ playbooks and emulate them.

Similarly, private schools should learn from their public school counterparts, and they should start to form booster clubs and raise funds for each of their various extra-curricular activities. This won’t take away support from people’s overall supportiveness. It can and will only add to it.

In short, high schools and their booster clubs should learn from and emulate one another in terms of what each does well. This can and will lead to the improved success of their schools and arts and athletic programs as well.