“You feel you’re part of something special and you enjoy the work that you do and you feel proud of it, you want to be sure that it continues to be good and special and significant. There’s a huge amount of personal investment in the school.”
Four Great Reasons
You remember forever the great teachers, the ones who went out of their way to know you, support you, and encourage you to do things you didn’t think you could do.
At its root, "opportunity" means “favorable wind.”More than anything, you want your children to have opportunities in life.
Nurturing Every Student
Ask parents with kids in independent schools what they most value about the school, and they almost always say that they love the personal attention their child receives.
Families go to independent schools not because of an accident of geography, but because they identify with the school's mission, beliefs and dedication to excellence in education.
Answers to Important Questions
Answers to Important Questions
I've seen some rankings of independent schools. How much should we rely on those?
As little as possible, because you're looking for the right school for your daughter or son, not someone else's idea of a "best" school. The right school for a child is the one that can best meet the needs of that particular child. The goal of choosing a school is to match a child's needs and interests with a school's mission, values, and resources. We believe that media rankings of schools are inescapably arbitrary and simplistic and mislead families about the factors that should be considered when choosing a school. Such rankings are a disservice to schools, children, and families.
What questions should we be asking ourselves about school?
• To what extent is your child engaged, supported and challenged in his present situation? How important are those things to you? • If your child's needs are being adequately met in his present situation, is “adequately” enough for him and for you? • When was the last time in your adult life that you had to take a high-stakes, multiple-choice test? • Don’t you always wonder if one-size-fits-all things are a good idea? What price does a square peg pay from being pounded, however gently, into a round hole? To a school with only a hammer, every student looks like a nail. • Are you tired of hearing about state-mandated standardized tests and how much time gets spent preparing for them? • Does your present school ask about, understand and value the hopes and dreams you have for your child? • Your child only gets one shot at second grade or seventh grade or tenth grade. If things aren’t working, does that lost ground ever really get made up? • What would it be like to be in a school setting where things like sports and music and art were an integral part of the school day and not cut back to balance the budget ? • Exactly how long does it take for a kid to get permanently turned off by school? One year? Two years? Five years? • Don’t you love it when your kid gets really excited about something at school? • When was the last time a teacher called you to tell you about something terrific your child did at school? • Since you do have choices, why wouldn’t you explore them?
How would I be treated as a parent at an independent school? Would the school welcome my involvement?
You will be treated as a full partner in the education of your child. That means regular communication via different media, early notification whenever there is a concern, face-to-face meetings with teachers and administrators as needed, and an acknowledgment that you know more about your child than anyone else. Independent schools want you to be active participants in the community, to actively engage in the life of the school. Every school will have a wealth of volunteer opportunities, from chaperoning to fund-raising to helping the school get greener. You will always be welcome at school.
How would I get my child to school every day? Is there transportation?
That depends on the school. Many do offer transportation, usually for an additional fee. Schools may also facilitate creating family car pools.
What's involved in applying to an independent school?
There are a number of steps to follow, including doing your homework to pick the schools that will be a good match, visiting the schools, filling out an application, filling out financial aid forms, arranging for any required testing, and arranging to have your current school send records and evaluations. Remember that the admission professionals at our schools are there to help you every step of the way.
Why do people sometimes describe independent schools as elitist or snobby?
There was a time when some independent schools served only the affluent, but that time is long gone. Our schools now are characterized by diversity of many kinds, values that stress that everyone deserves respect, a commitment to service in the school community and in the greater community, and the goal of being as inclusive as possible
How can I explain to people that an independent school is the right choice for my child? I think some of them would be disappointed in us for not supporting our public school.
If this comes up, it's best to stress that you've done everything you can to make the public option work, but you've finally come to the conclusion that your child needs a different educational setting and approach and that you need to explore other possibilities for her sake. Your decision relates strictly to your child's situation and is not, in any way, a criticism of your public schools. And you continue to support your local public schools through your taxes.
Why is small class size supposed to be so good for students?
Primarily because having fewer students allows the teachers to: 1) get to know each student in depth, 2) be able to closely monitor the student's progress, and 3) have the time to help when a student has difficulty. When we ask parents what they like about their independent school, they always mention small classes and individual attention.
What are independent school teachers like? Why do people choose to work in independent schools?
The people who choose to teach in independent schools are passionate about their subject or grade level, committed to forming close, supportive relationships with their students, and excited about working with students in many different capacities. They value the autonomy they have in creating and implementing curriculum that really engages the students. They understand the importance of the parent/school partnership and welcome your insights and feedback.
Someone told me that independent schools don't have good sports programs. Is that true?
On the contrary, independent schools: 1) offer a wide range of athletic opportunities for students 2) often have excellent athletic facilities 3) encourage students to try a variety of sports, and, most important, 4) are small enough that students can play on an interscholastic team without having to be a superstar. Because independent schools are committed to athletics as integral to an excellent education, you don't have to worry about the football team or the JV hockey team disappearing next year.
Independent schools must not be very diverse. Right?
Actually independent schools are quite diverse with our member schools reporting an average of 18% students of color and an average of 25% of students receiving financial aid. Few suburban public schools could claim to be as racially and socio-economically diverse. So the independent school down the street may well be more reflective of the diversity of the "real world" than your public school. Be sure to ask about this, if it is important to you.
Do you have to have a low income to receive financial aid? Do schools have much financial aid to give out?
"No" and "It depends." Financial aid is based on your need and many families with above-average family incomes are surprised to find that they do qualify for some support. The amount of available aid varies from school to school. The average AISNE school provides financial aid to 25% of its families and the average grant is about $20,000 (note that this includes boarding schools with higher costs). If you know that you will need financial aid, be sure to ask about it when you visit schools.
Why should I consider sending my child to an independent elementary school? Can't we just wait until middle or high school?
Many folks believe that it is crucial to secure for their child the best possible educational foundation; others do decide to wait, figuring their current situation is good enough. One definite advantage of your child going to an independent elementary school is that she will be in a stronger position to be both accepted and successful at an independent high school.
How can I decide if an independent school is a worthwhile investment in my child and her future?
It all comes down to some basic questions: Are my child's needs being adequately met in his present situation? Is adequately good enough? Is my child engaged, nurtured and challenged in his present situation? How important are those things to you? Would you consider a private college to be a worthwhile investment? As one parent told us, "My child having a good educational experience is more important than any dollar amount."
How would my kids learn about the real world if they go to an independent school? Won't they be at a disadvantage later on?
There are as many definitions of the "real world" as there are people, and there are some "real worlds" that you would never want your child to experience. What folks usually mean by this question is that they're concerned that an independent school can't prepare their kids to be successful in what they see as an increasingly complex, diverse, challenging and even dangerous world. The best preparation for that world is an education rooted in strong values and committed to excellence in character as well as academics, the kind of education our schools offer. And most independent schools are intentionally diverse -- racially, ethnically, geographically and socio-economically.
What is an independent school? Is it the same as a private school?
Yes. Independent schools are simply a particular kind of non-profit private school, distinguished by having a free-standing board of trustees that is solely responsible for the school and by being independently funded, primarily by tuition.
Aren't all independent schools basically the same?
Not at all. Just within our membership there is an extraordinary range of schools, from small elementary schools to big boarding schools, and everything in between. While most schools are coed, a number are single-sex. Many schools have a particular religious affiliation or follow a particular educational philosophy. Some schools define themselves as traditional in their approach; other see themselves as progressive. There is much more variety within the world of independent schools than there is in public schools, because public schools must all follow the same standards and prepare for the same standardized tests.
What's wrong with public schools? Why would I pay for something that I already get for free?
There's nothing wrong with public schools, but at some point you may decide that your child is not thriving in your public school and that you want a different learning environment for him. You may feel that greater academic challenge or more enrichment would allow your child to more fully reach his or her potential. One-size-fits-all just won't work for every student. You might be concerned that your child is getting negative about school, is coasting or seems to be lost in the shuffle, isn't doing much homework, isn't getting the needed support, or isn't involved in extra-curricular activities. Or you might be concerned that teachers don't know your child as an individual or that the school's values and priorities don't align with yours. -- Those are serious concerns. You could well decide that a private independent school is just what your child needs, and that, because education is a high priority in terms of your family's resources, you are willing to make the necessary sacrifices. The most important thing to remember is that you do have choices.