What is a private school?
Simply put, private schools are those not run by the government, and they typically charge tuition. Private schools are not inherently better than the various public school options. However, if a private school is the right fit for your child, the extra cost can certainly be a great investment in your child's future.
In Memphis, there are about 90 independent and parochial schools — a significant number for a city of our size. Many of these schools offer financial aid. Check with each school's admission office for more information.
In Memphis, more than 30 schools are members of the Memphis Association of Independent Schools (MAIS), and there are many other private schools beyond the MAIS. Many, but certainly not all, of the independent schools in Memphis have a religious component. There are Jewish schools, a Muslim school, and Christian schools of many types, including those that are nondenominational. Most denominational schools do not require that their students are members of that denomination, and the influence of the denomination on the school's curriculum and programs varies greatly from school to school.
The term "parochial schools" generally refers to Catholic schools. The schools of the Catholic Diocese of Memphis are widely considered to be strong schools that serve a diverse student population, including many non-Catholics. They also tend to be socioeconomically and ethnically diverse.
Choosing the right private school
A private school is not likely to publish its students' test scores, so you might need to do some digging to determine if the school is really providing the kind of education it advertises. The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) has a great Parents' Guide that will walk you through the steps of researching, applying to, and financing private schools.
After you've looked at NAIS, you'll want to check out the list of MOST partner schools. There are several schools that offer significant financial assistance to families who qualify. And of course, a limited number of MOST scholarships are available each year to students entering preschool, kindergarten, and first grade (and for older students with diagnosed learning disabilities). Click here for more info on applying for a MOST Scholarship.