Is private school best for a child with learning disabilities?

My child has just been diagnosed with learning disabilities, and it was recommended to us that she be put into a special day class at a different school from where she is currently attending. We are in Castro Valley. Despite the lauded reputation of CVUSD, I have been displeased with the way this district has handled things from the very beginning when we first enrolled our child for special services as a preschooler.

Long story, but basically, we are planning on transitioning her (actually, there is no "transition".. she will just have to change schools again) to the special day program so that she can obtain the recommended special services. In the future, though, we are strongly considering private school for her as we feel that the school district just throws its recommendations around with complete disregard for parents (first, they were trying to force her to start kindergarten before we felt she was ready, now they are "strongly" recommending she be put into this special day class asap and even brought up the possibility of disenrolling her completely from the school district if we didn't move her to the special day class ASAP. I won't even get into what a headache it was to get her even enrolled in special services before all this or how they lost my online account multiple times. I've had it with this school district.)

I guess my question is specifically for those parents who have kids with special learning needs, delays, or need for special services and who have experience getting the services and quality education for their kids in the public school setting vs. private school setting. Was there any improvement in the private school setting? If you have a child with learning needs who attended private school, please share your experiences and if you would recommend this route or continue dealing with the public school system. 

There is also the issue of trying to find childcare in the public school setting. Going to public school is actually not "free" as one still needs to find childcare, and the school system absolutely has no resources whereas in the private school setting, it seems to be included.

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In my experience, public school has more services that they can offer than private schools do. But that's typical private schools, there are also more therapeutic schools called non-public schools (NPS). You have to demonstrate that the district can't meet your child's needs in order for them to pay for an NPS placement - sometimes you can pay out of pocket but it's prohibitively expensive for most people ($50k/year). I've heard through the grapevine that Castro Valley is particularly bad for special ed, I think the state education department might even be investigating them right now due to complaints. I'd recommend connecting with other CVUSD sped parents, they will be your best resource - there are facebook groups and it's worth it to be on facebook just for those connections. You should also contact DREDF to better understand your rights. They cannot disenroll you for not accepting a placement. Good luck, this sounds really hard.

Hi, I'm also in CVUSD.  We have terrible rep for SPED.  There is a private FaceBook group called "CVUSD SPED Awareness, IEP Support & Advocacy"  that offers lots of advice and resources.  You can also contact Dredf to get an advocate's advice.  The law gives you options for least restrictive environment in the public schools...so not knowing your circumstances, sounds like you're at the beginning of the process.  You can always call for IEP meeting and bring an advocate with you.  Good luck!  I still go back and forth looking for a good fit private but haven't found that either.

I'm sorry that you've been thrown around so much by the public schools. I'd caution against assuming that just because a school is private, it will provide more in terms of instructional and extra curricular resources.

I am a private school teacher with utmost respect for my colleagues and am most familiar with schools in SF and the peninsula. In my experience, a private school is only better *if* it specializes in the learning profile of your child. Most private schools do a great job of supporting middle range students (including middle-low and middle-high), but do not have the resources to differentiate at extreme ends of the spectrum.

I'm sure there are some private schools that provide child care for free--I'm more familiar with a sliding scale model and expect that it's more common in the bay area. I'd also look closely at the vacation calendars. You may find that there are fewer school days than in the public schools.

Good luck!

I'll be interested to read the responses of those with LD kids in public school. As you asked about private, our DD was diagnosed as dyslexic in 2nd grade while attending a parochial school. Though we could have gone through our local public school district for evaluation we opted for testing through UC Berkeley's Psychology Department. Unless they are LD private schools specifically for LD students, most private and parochial schools are not really equipped to fully 'remediate' their LD students. In our case, we opted out of the school LD services (due to an employee we found wholly incompetent) and paid out of pocket for LD support through a certified Educational Therapist. Fast forward to today, our student is on the Honor Roll in high school and only receives occasional support and has minimal accommodations. 

If you are confident in your child's diagnosis through the school district then great, If not, I highly recommend UC's program for testing. Then I would keep up the fight with the district and invest your money not in private school but in your child as you are able with private therapy, the younger you start the better. I encourage you to find a CERTIFIED Ed Therapist - not just a 'tutor' as the training is much more rigorous. As the parent of an LD kid, I don't think you can really rely on any school to be on top of this, Good luck!

Feel free to contact me privately. In short, private schools don't have the same legal mandates to provide services so it really depends on the school, their bandwidth, and your ability to trust that whatever services are offered going in, will consistently be offered, and revised as needed. I know some families with kids with different needs end up moving from private to public schools.

My daughter is now 24, so my opinions aren't based on recent experiences.  But if I could do it all over again, I would keep my severely ADD daughter in public school.  We live in Oakland.  She went to public school for elementary, a private middle school and a charter high school.  The private school was small, which was good, but it didn't have the resources -- nor was it legally required -- to provide special ed services.  It made accommodations such as putting my daughter in the front row of classes, but that's about it.  The charter high school was required to provide services, but despite being in Oakland,  its regulation or management was handled by a school district in Grass Valley, which covered many, many charter schools.  (There's a word for that, but I forget what it is.)  At the time my daughter needed services, the special ed person was really rigid, and her abiding goal was not to have the district spend any money.  The upshot is that my daughter floundered through high school (she nearly dropped out) and her sense of herself as "dumb" never changed.  Obviously, private schools vary, and you didn't mention charter schools, but as public schools are legally required to provide services, I think you're on safer ground there. 

My son (now in 7th grade) has ADHD, dyslexia & dysgraphia. He was at a public elementary school in Berkeley where the staff seemed to be absolutely mystified by his LD issues--which are completely common! The school psych even did testing and missed both the dyslexia & dysgraphia, which were both pretty obvious to us as parents. I was pretty flabbergasted. We ended up gettin the school district to pay for an outside assessment and then have both pushed for accommodations at school and paid for an outside specialist (who we then filed against the school district to pay for - you can do that, ask DREDF). 

We thought public middle school would be a big load because of size and chaos, so we applied to private middle schools. We felt that after the help he got in elementary, his disabilities weren't severe enough to merit a place like Raskob, that specializes in dyslexia. We applied only to private schools that indicated that they were open to kids who were not neurotypical. We dragged our kid to open houses and testings and shadow days. And no one accepted him. I deeply regret putting him through that.

Now, he's in public middle school and, while it's not perfect and we still pay for an outside expert, he's doing pretty well and we're planning on him attending public high school, too. 

A mom I know who is also a school psychologist says that she is often called to do neuropsychs on kids at private schools and that the other parents (of the neurotypical kids) are often behind an effort to push out kids who need extra attention. I guess when you pay $30k for school, you feel like you are owed a lot!

I echo other posters that either public school or a school that is geared to your kids type of LD are the best options. And do call DREDF!

Thank you all so much for your replies. This has been illuminating, as I have always been sold the idea that CVUSD was one of the best districts in the East Bay, and I assumed that included the special education facet, as well. This is difficult to read but also very informative. 

Is anyone familiar with how Alameda Unified School District compares in terms of special education services and general quality of schools (both private and public)? That would be another option I could explore. 

I suggest checking out San Leandro Unified. It's a smaller district and their reputation isn't great compared to Castro Valley or Alameda, but some of the schools there are gems -- diverse and very caring (to me the Great Schools ratings are more a reflection of this diversity, rather than instructional quality). I know a couple of parents whose kids have IEPs, and the district tries their best to get kids the services they need.