Is a private or independent school right for your child and for your family? Many public schools do an excellent job of educating students and they do it at no additional cost. However, the benefits of an independent school education can often outweigh the costs depending on what the local public school may offer. Having worked in independent schools for twenty-five years and having attended an independent school myself, the advantage is clear to me.
Independent schools can offer an edge in many areas, including academics; faculty expectations; involvement in arts, athletics, and activities; class size and student-to-teacher ratio; college preparation and counseling; student outcomes; community and parent involvement; and more. While all of these may not resonate with you, it is important to highlight and explain some.
Academics - Independent schools often have greater flexibility with their curriculum, allowing the school to push students further academically without constraint. The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) states: “More students in independent schools enroll in advanced courses than in public, parochial, and other private schools.”
Faculty Expectations - Independent school teachers do not have tenure; they are not guaranteed a job year after year. Many independent schools have a strong teacher evaluation system in place that enables teachers to grow and succeed while holding the same to high standards and expectations. Independent school faculty hold advanced degrees, many with multiple degrees, allowing them a greater level of expertise in their subject area. Faculty in independent schools are held to higher standards for their background and their performance.
Involvement in arts
, activities - Independent schools often have participation requirements in each of these areas. Given the size, independent schools need students to be artists and athletes as well as students.
College preparation and college counseling
- Most independent schools are true college preparatory schools with a curriculum structured to enable students to be best prepared for success in college and beyond. The college counseling staff are solely focused on the college process and work with students and families on an individual basis to help determine the best fit. According to NAIS, graduates of independent schools have a greater likelihood of completing a bachelor’s degree or graduate degree.
Student Outcomes - Independent schools are not tied to state-mandated testing and standards; meaning, we can do so much more and we can expect more of our students. Independent schools want to appropriately challenge each and every student in the best way possible in and out of the classroom. When students are in an environment where they feel safe physically, emotionally, and socially, they are more willing to take risks academically, artistically, and athletically. That’s what independent schools do - we create a space for students to push themselves to try more and to do more.
Community and parent involvement - Families who choose independent schools are making a commitment to be engaged in a variety of ways. Independent school communities are a vital element to a school’s success. Happy families share their experiences with other families, and this word-of-mouth creates new opportunities and applicants. There are a number of school activities, events, and traditions open to all members of the school community, and it is at these events that you get a true sense of all that a school has to offer outside the classroom. Parent participation is key, and that participation is different for each family, but independent schools are family schools that rely on parents for volunteer time and financial support beyond tuition.
There is a price attached to all of these opportunities, but what better investment to make than in your children and their future? Education is the opportunity for our children to do more and become more. Building a strong educational foundation in an independent school enables students to have an experience unlike any other. Students will succeed in myriad of ways with the appropriate challenges and supports in place. Having the gift of an independent school education can establish a lifelong love of learning and a lifetime of success.