Evaluating Schools

Here you will find resources and tools to aid in your search and evaluation of private schools. Explore the ranking system and read what schools have to say about it. Learn more about the most important questions to ask and how an education consultant can get answers. Use our checklists to help compare school administration, curriculum and more.
View the most popular articles in Evaluating Schools:
Choosing a Prep School
Here's a recap of the steps you need to follow to find the right school for your child. Work through the process in sequence from beginning to end.
If you are following our timeline for choosing a private school, you will notice that this process starts almost two years before the fall in which you want your child to start school. The process begins in a leisurely fashion as you gather your thoughts and think about schools. The intensity builds in the final six months before the January admissions deadline most schools seem to have.
 
Here's a recap of the steps you need to follow to find the right school for your child. Work through the process in sequence from beginning to end.
 
Why Private School?
Is private school right for your child? Learn about the things you should consider and the unique benefits of a private school education. Once you are convinced of  the value of a private school education, then you must determine which private school is going to be best for your requirements.

Which School is the Best for Your Child?
It depends on your requirements. But in the end only one thing matters most anyway: the fit. When you get the fit right, you will have a happy child.

Boarding or Day School?
Many parents agonize over sending their child to boarding school or keeping them at home and sending them to day school. There are benefits to both kinds of schools. This is an important choice to make.

Single Sex or Coeducation?
You ought to consider a single sex school as opposed to a traditional coeducational school. Why? Because...
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Sports Programs
Sports are important in private schools. But they are also balanced properly by the emphasis on solid academics.
One of the components of a quality private school education is sports. A great many private schools offer athletic programs which rival many colleges and universities. Lest you get the wrong idea, academics are paramount in a private school experience. But private schools truly do adhere to the ancient motto mens sana in corpore sano - a healthy mind in a healthy body. Consequently even the most unathletic students in any private school community are required to do some kind of sports on a regular basis. Many boarding schools have a half day on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The afternoons are given over to athletics.
 
The intramural and varsity sports attract enthusiastic squads and are very competitive. They practice and compete in fine facilities. Check out the athletic programs at Hotchkiss, Kent, Miss Porter's and Lawrenceville to name but a few examples. Several schools such as Woodberry Forest and Northfield Mount Hermon have their own golf courses. Equestrian facilities are a feature of a dozen or so schools. Crew or shell rowing is also popular in many private schools. Northern schools such as Shattuck-St. Mary's and Avon Old Farms also offer solid hockey programs.

If you have questions about a school's athletic program, be sure to contact the athletic director. The blend of academic and athletic excellence possible in a private school setting will please you. Your son or daughter will be able to play varsity...
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Checklist For Comparing Schools
Use this checklist to help you compare schools on your short list.
Use this checklist to keep track of your questions and answers to those questions as you visit each school on your short list. There is a lot of information to assimilate as you make those important visits. It will be easy to forget details unless you note them promptly.
 
School Demographics School #1 School #2 School #3
Day or boarding      
Coed or single sex      
Number of students      
Number of boarders      
Number of day students      
How diverse is the student body?      
Number of faculty      
Student to faculty ratio      
       
Administration and Faculty      
How long has the headmaster/principal been in office?      
How large is the endowment?      
Financial condition of school (Excellent to marginal)      
Number of faculty with advanced degrees      
Staff turnover (If turnover, why?)      
       
Curriculum and Instruction      
IB offered?      
Number of AP courses      
Teaching methods (Harkness, classical, etc.)      
Is technology integrated into teaching?      
       
Religious Emphasis      
Which denomination or faith?      
Intensity of observances (relaxed to mandatory)      
       
Campus and Facilities      
General appearance      
Athletics facilities      
Sports programs      
Arts facilities      
Arts programs      
Security and safety      
       
Location      
Urban? Rural?      
Convenient? Isolated?      
       
Admissions      
Deadline      
Is staff helpful?      
Policies and procedures      
Shadowing permitted?      
Overnights?      
Quality of visit and tour      
       
Financial      
Tuition Fees      
Sundries      
Financial aid offered      
       
Notes
 

Technology in Private Schools
Private schools use technology to support and enhance their academic programs. Most of them have been doing this since the early 1990's.
What is technology like in private schools? In most private schools teachers and students have been using computers since the mid 1990's. Tablet PC's are the norm. Wireless networking and electronic presentation devices such whiteboards, LCD displays and projectors are all part of the private school teacher's bag of tricks. In the old days technology was a curious if fascinating add-on. You went to a computer lab and taught keyboarding or used programs such as MathBlaster. In the 21st century technology supports and enhances all aspects of the curriculum and teaching. Everybody has their own portable computer with the flexibility and efficiency such mobility encourages.

Most schools now subscribe to Internet 2 as well as the commercial internet. They also use email and VOIP phones internally for seamless integration of data and voice messaging.

While Macs are popular in many schools, most private schools use PCs in line with the common practice in the business world.

Technology staffs are now fulltime professionals. Their duties are divided between traditional line and support functions and academic technology responsibilities. Showing teachers how to use technology in the classroom is just as important as troubleshooting somebody's malfunctioning PC.

Web 2.0 tools can be found throughout private schools. Blogs, Skype, RSS feeds, social networking sites and wikis flourish. Many schools encourage parents to follow their child's progress through the use of Web portals and messaging. Parents can monitor academic progress in realtime rather than just waiting for a report card to be issued.

Open Houses
You must visit schools on your short list. Open houses are an efficient way to do this. More on organizing this task here.
Visiting schools is a critical part of choosing a school. Yes, you can get a pretty good idea of school programs and facilities from a web site. But remember that the school is presenting itself exactly as it wishes to be seen in a highly edited and sanitized manner.
 
Accordingly, you simply must see the school, inspect the facilities, meet some students and chat with the staff. After all, you are thinking about entrusting your precious child to these people. You must determine if they are a good fit for your child. Your child won't be just a number in a private school. Small class sizes and a low student to teacher ratio mean that she won't get lost in the shuffle. Consequently she needs to be in a setting which will nurture and bring out the best in her. Your practised eye can root out any potential problems. Use a Checklist for Comparing Schools to keep track of your observations and answers to your questions.
 
Remember: a school doesn't shape just educational outcomes; it also strongly influences attitudes and critical thinking. The culture of a school has a lot to do with this. Visiting the school allows you to evaluate all these important aspects.
 
Many schools have open houses. These offer you a wonderful opportunity to visit the school, see classrooms, listen to the school's 'story' and meet admissions staff. How do you figure out which schools have open houses in your area? You can look on the school's...
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Choosing a Private School

EVALUATING SCHOOLS