Choosing a Private School

This section will provide expert advice, valuable tools, and relevant resources to aid in the decision making process. Learn more about what factors to consider when choosing a private school, what to expect at an open house, and how an educational consultant can help.
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When you think of single sex education as a choice or an option when you are thinking about sending your child to private school, the subject becomes a little easier to understand in the 21st century. Historically private schools have offered single sex education for decades. Indeed many of our older K-12 schools were founded with the purpose of educating boys or girls separately. That's the way things were done back in the 18th and 19th centuries. Colleges and universities were also set up as single sex institutions. For example, Harvard University was an all-male university until 1977 when its sister college, Radcliffe, merged with it.
 
Characteristics of single sex schools
 
How do we define a single-sex school? By definition a single sex school is a school which educates boys or girls exclusively. As a general rule classes will not be co-educational. On occasion neighboring boys and girls schools which have an established relationship will host co-educational classes. 
 
What grades do single sex schools offer? Typically single sex schools are high schools offering grades 9 through 12 and a Post Graduate year where available. A handful of single sex schools offer the middle school grades 6 through 9. Even fewer schools offer PK-12. You will also notice that middle school grades go up to grade 9 and high school begins with grade 9 as well. Actually grade 10 is probably the most common entry point for private high schools. That’s one reason for the overlap of the grades. 

In the following video . . .read more
Thinking about sending your child off to private school? Then you will need to decide which educational philosophy and approach works best for you. What it really comes down to is whether you want to send your child to a school that uses a traditional approach to teaching or one that uses a non-traditional approach.
 
In the public school world a traditional school is a regular public school and a non-traditional school is a charter school. That's not what I am discussing here with respect to private schools. The concept of a private school as an independent largely self-financing corporate entity does not change. You and I are going to focus on what is taught in the classroom and how it is taught.
 
The early years
 
Your child's age is a major factor when it comes to choosing an educational approach. For example, if you send him to a Montessori school as a toddler, you are exposing him to a non-traditional approach to education. It is an excellent approach and highly regarded. But non-traditional nonetheless. Start your child off in a Montessori, Waldorf or Reggio Emilia school and you will lay solid foundations for learning in later life. But visit a traditional private primary school and you will see a quite different approach to early education.
 
This short video compares and contrasts a progressive primary education with a traditional primary education.
 
 
Obvious differences will be the dress code. Uniforms are required at many traditional religious schools. The curricula follow . . .read more
Perhaps you are just starting to think about private high school for your middle schooler. Or perhaps you have started the process of choosing the right private school and have some questions about how to proceed. These five 'must haves' will hopefully help you focus on the things which are really important when it comes to choosing a private school.
 
1. The best fit
 
Always number one on my list is the fit. Fit trumps everything else simply because fit is all about how your child and the school mesh. If they are not in synch, the result will be an unhappy child. Keep this in mind as you visit schools on your short list. Your child will know instinctively whether or not she likes the school.
 
Now, having pointed out how important fit is, it makes good sense to engineer the visits so that she likes all the schools on your short list. How do you do that? You hire an educational consultant who will identify schools which will be a good fit. That's what an educational consultant does. Consultants take time to get to know you and your child. They know their schools too. As a result the list of schools which a consultant presents you will be on target. Any or all of the schools will potentially be a good fit. One will be the best fit. Visiting schools on a list of schools carefully selected with your needs and requirements in mind will be a pleasure because almost . . .read more
You have seen the articles in major publications such as Forbes and Chicago Magazine. "Top 10 Prep Schools" or "Best Private Schools in ____" These lists invariably contain the names of schools which are familiar. But are these schools the right ones for you? Let me explain why I believe that ranking private schools makes no sense for parents like us who are looking for the right school for our children.
 
A flawed premise
Ranking private schools is intrinsically flawed from get go. Why? Because each private school is a unique entity. The essence of being a private school is that it does its own thing. It accepts the students it wants to accept. It teaches the curriculum it wants to teach. It teaches that curriculum the way it wants to teach. Each private school has its own mission statement, philosophy, code of conduct, programs and traditions.

 

Yes, you can compare things like the number of AP courses, varsity sports, extracurricular activities and so on. But you normally will make those comparisons when you are developing a short list of schools which meet your requirements. You see, schools which meet your requirements are the only ones which matter. Those articles ranking schools are not relevant to what you need to do, namely, to find a school in which your child will be happy.

Schools not on a top ten list are not second rate.

 

Schools which don't appear on top ten lists are not also rans. Far from . . .read more
Ten years ago choosing a private school was at a crossroads. Back then you had the traditional ways of finding schools and finding out more about them. You asked around. You contacted schools you knew about. You bought a directory of private schools, if indeed one was available. (I still have a vintage copy of The New York Times Guide to New York City Schools written by Grace and Fred Hechinger published in 1968.) Or you hired an educational consultant.

So, let's take a look at how you can save time and money choosing a private school for your children in 2012.

 

  2000 2012
Finding schools Books
Word of mouth
Consultant
Internet searches
Directory listings
Association listings
Finding out more about schools Request catalogs
Call the schools
Consultant
Online tours
YouTube
Social media

 

In 2012 we literally have more information - and misinformation - than we can assimilate. Assuming that you are savvy enough to use reputable sources, you shouldn't have much difficulty finding schools. Here are some places to look.

Directories and Associations
Start with a listing of private school directories and associations like the one we have on this site. Then drill down to the state or regions in which you are interested. Most of these directories and associations have lists of member schools. Use filters to exclude schools not of interest.

The NCES site offers an exhaustive list of every private school in the nation. But it's interface is clunky.

Our read more
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Choosing a Private School

Getting Started

In this section we offer a look into some of the most important factors of choosing a private school. Investigate single-sex education and read what students have to say, learn more about what is important when choosing a private school, and get valuable advice on transitioning to a new school.

Finding Schools

Learn more about how to find and evaluate private schools. Find out why price should not be your only consideration. Get valuable advice on how to save time and money when choosing a school. Learn more about ranking schools and why it may not work.

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.