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Blyth-Templeton Blog

How Private School in D.C. Can Be Accessible to All Families

[fa icon="calendar"] 8/6/18 3:46 PM / by Lee Palmer

Lee Palmer

The education landscape of D.C. can be difficult for families to navigate for both positive and negative reasons.  On the positive side, D.C. has a wide variety of school choices based on program, location, and cost. On the negative side, it’s a challenge to find the right fit for your family with so many choices.  

Public, charter, parochial and private schools are the traditional routes when it comes to education in D.C., but for many families there is never the opportunity for a true choice for their child. 

What can families do? Money doesn’t grow on trees, and if families don’t have $20-45K available to pay the annual tuition rates for private and parochial schools, then public schools may be the only option. While there is diversity of educational approach and excellence within the public/charter school environment, families are often limited to only a few choices based on their place of residence or lottery results.

There is a new option emerging on the educational scene. Micro schools are part of an education revolution, designed to bring the highest quality education to students and families at an accessible tuition.  Micro schools like Blyth-Templeton Academy are changing the way students learn and challenging mainstream ideas about "school" and how much education should cost.  

Private School: A History of Increasing Unaffordability

Private schools have long been seen for many as desirable educational options, offering smaller classes, engaged students, and a myriad of resources.  

But long-term trends that look at private school enrollment and household income show that private school has increasingly become an option only for higher income families. A study, conducted by researchers at the Harvard Kennedy School, found that, between 1950 and 2015, "the share of middle-income students attending private schools has declined by almost half, while the private-school enrollment rate of wealthy children has remained steady."

According to the Urban Institute, enrollment at private schools in D.C.  declined significantly after 2000. This study suggests that the decline may be due to the increased improvement in area public schools, but this decline also coincides with a period of significant increase in private school tuition in the area.

One study performed by Washingtonian magazine found that between 1998 and 2008, tuition rates at private schools in D.C. increased between 5-8 percent annually. Although that might not seem like a lot, tuition increases year after year can easily strain family budgets and push middle income families out of the private system.

Although tuition has stopped increasing at such a drastic rate, the cost for D.C. private schooling has continued to rise over the last decade. In fact, the average cost of a year of private high school in D.C. is $27,014, with the higher end private schools costing $30,000-48,000 annually - far more than many families can afford.

An Accessible Education Model: Micro Schools

Perhaps you are one of these many D.C. families who are searching for a high school where your child will thrive, learning the subjects and skills that will prepare them for our fast-changing world, but at a price point that doesn’t require a second mortgage.

Micro schools are small, consisting of 150 students or less. At Blyth-Templeton, class sizes average between 7-9 students. This inviting and nurturing community offers several benefits. Teachers are able to develop strong personal relationships with their students, investing quality time in their success, and walking with them as guides rather than emphasizing content. BTA believes strongly in the "guide on the side" approach as opposed to the "sage on the stage"

At a micro school, education is highly personalized and geared toward helping students learn valuable life skills and developing a strong sense of discovery, creativity, and innovation. Teachers use hands-on, experiential teaching methods, combined with place-based learning to offer the most well-rounded and effective education to their students. Highly flexible yet academically rigorous classes prepare students to meet the challenges of college, the professional world, and life in general.

Blyth-Templeton students take two classes per term, over a four term year. By reducing the number of subjects the students are focusing on at any given time, students are invited to dive deeply into the material, spend an extended period of time thoroughly exploring the subject, and express their findings through self-motivated projects. Students are empowered to take ownership of their education, becoming agents for themselves and actively participating in their studies.

By operating on a small scale, micro schools are able to take advantage of existing resources, which has several advantages for us at Blyth-Templeton.  

  1. Our students are embedded in the D.C. community, not in a school bubble, which allows them to learn in authentic settings and in a way that keeps their commitment to the community at the forefront. 
  2. Costs are greatly reduced by not building and maintaining facilities that may sit unused for long periods of time.

BTA has the smallest possible footprint on the environment, connecting community and education in a highly efficient and effective manner.  At Blyth-Templeton, we rent space in the Capitol Hill neighborhood to use for offices and classrooms, classes use the public library, the parks, the museums, partnerships with community organizations - the resources available are dynamic and real-world. 

At Blyth-Templeton, we believe that every student and family, regardless of their socio-economic status, should have access to a great education that is right for them. For families looking for additional assistance, we invite you to fill out our Financial Aid Application.

We believe there is no need for first-rate college preparation to cost as much as it currently does in Washington D.C. and we are excited to be able to offer an exceptional, accessible option to all families.

Visits to the school provide a great opportunity to meet staff, get an overview of how things work at BTA, ask questions, and see the school and students in action if you visit during the school day.


Topics: parents, private educaton

Lee Palmer

About Lee Palmer

Lee Palmer is the Chief Innovation Officer for Blyth-Templeton Academy and the former Head of School. She has previously served as Principal of the Upper School at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, Interim Principal of the Upper School at Trinity School in New York City, Science Chair at the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore and as a founding board member of the Global Online Academy. Educated at Cornell University (B.S.), Rutgers University (M.S.) and Towson University (Secondary Education), Lee is deeply committed to student-centered, global experiential education.

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Blyth-Templeton Academy voted a top DC high school for 2018 by readers of the Washington City Paper