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:
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What to Research Before Choosing a Private School
When making an important decision that will impact the lives of your children, you need to have all the facts in place. We compiled a list of the most important factors to consider when choosing a final private school for your child.
When making an important decision that will impact the lives of your children, you need to have all the facts in place. 
 
Aside from the basic questions of cost and affordability, there are many different factors to consider when choosing where to educate your kids. “Selecting a private school, like so many things in life, requires care and attention to detail,” believes Judi Robinovitz, Certified Educational Planner and Founding Owner of Score At The Top Learning Centers and Schools.
  
We compiled a list of the most important factors to consider when choosing a final private school for your child. 
 
Academic Style 
 
The #1 reason parents invest in private school is to get the best possible education for their children.  Keep in mind that not just raw academic strength is important, but the style of the learning environment, and if it meshes with your child’s personality. We are learning more and more that each student learns in different ways, and responds to different types of teaching styles. Some children may thrive on competition while others succeed under reduced pressure. Others may learn quickly and need more advanced subject matter, while their contemporaries struggle with the basics.  
 
Mike Weagley, CEO of elite tutoring service Lotus Prep, suggests that parents ask themselves, “Is the school too hard or too easy for my kid? Does my kid flourish in a looser atmosphere or a more structured, rigid one? Is the school a pressure-cooker or Zen-like?” Learn how teachers structure their classes,
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What Do They Teach?
As you evaluate schools, take time to explore fully what the schools which you are looking at teach.
This article is a companion article to How Do They Teach? which discusses what goes on in private school classrooms. This article explores the academics and other material which schools actually teach.
 
When we parents first start thinking about sending our children to private school, one of the first questions which comes to mind is the teaching content. What exactly will the schools you are looking at teach? Obviously with thousands of private schools I cannot address all the permutations and variations which exist. So I thought it might make sense for us to look at several educational approaches and methods and see what they teach. That will at least give you a starting point for some in depth exploration of what they are teaching at schools you might be interested in.
 
Toddler
 
The wee ones won't be at school for very long on a daily basis. Apart from that the teachers will create a rich environment to peak a child's interests. Development of fine and gross motor skills are a focus as are language and speech skills.
 
Prekindergarten
 
Most prekindergarten programs focus on preparing their students for kindergarten. Look for the development of motor skills and teaching children how to socialize. Also look for play-based lessons and an emphasis on collaboration and teamwork and listening. Building on the excitement of discovery is another component in the prekindergarten teacher's portfolio of skills. Children learn by doing. Your child should have lots to do balanced of course with snacks and quiet times. Here
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From a Parent's Perspective: Is Accreditation Necessary?
Does accreditation matter? Is it necessary? Aren't there lots of fine private schools which are not accredited? Answers to these questions and more here.
Let's start our discussion with this question: what if a school you are looking at is not accredited? Does it matter?
 
Does Accreditation Matter?

There are plenty of fine private schools which are not accredited. But the fact that they are not accredited means that you and I have to do a lot more basic due diligence as we evaluate unaccredited schools. Many of the foundational issues which an accreditation process covers in great detail now become our responsibility to investigate. Think of this investigation just like the inspection which you commission when you put an offer on a house. The house looks perfect. But is its infrastructure perfect? Are there flaws which are not readily apparent? The inspector's report will reveal the good and the items which need fixing.  That's basically how accreditation works. The properly executed accreditation process celebrates the school's good points and offers suggestions for fixing what is deficient.
 
Does Accreditation Matter for College Admissions?

Some experts claim that it doesn't matter much whether or not a high school or school district is accredited. The issue surfaces any time a school or a school district loses its accreditation or is threatened with its loss. The truth of the matter is that accreditation is just one piece of the admissions profile for candidates. I was unable to find any examples of a college rejecting an otherwise well-qualified candidate simply because she had the misfortune to graduate from a school which had lost its accreditation. [Source: Maureen Downey in
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Before You Spend $30k on Private School...
Before you spend $30,000 or more on a year at private school for your child, you need to ask five questions and be guided by the answers you receive.

As I have often said on these pages, finding the right private school for your child is a process, and a daunting process at that. There are a great many factors to consider. So, before you spend $30,000 or more on a year at private school for your child, you need to ask five questions and be guided by the answers you receive:

1.  Does it get the results you want?
2.  Does what the school teaches jibe with your requirements?
3.  Will your child be happy there?
4.  Is the school financially stable?
5.  How will you pay for it?

There is a bit more to the process, of course, but asking these five questions will get you started on the extensive due diligence which you must do before you spend approximately $150,000 for four years of private day school or approximately $200,000 for four years of boarding school. Tuition varies from school to school. Some are much less. Some a great deal more. Also we are only discussing high school and middle school. The primary grades will run you $8,000 - $15,000 depending on the school.

Another point to consider is that private schools in the United States are not subsidized by government funding. So they will charge whatever the market forces and their budgets determine can be charged and needs to be charged. Having said that, be aware that most private schools offer generous financial aid program. Some schools will even pay for everything as long as

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What Do Schools Say About Ranking?
Ranks really don't matter. I have said that for years. But let's see what private schools have to say about the matter.

Over the years I have steadfastly maintained that ranks are not important when it comes to choosing the right school for your child. My viewpoint, however, runs counter to what most parents hear and see in the popular media which loves to crow about this top school or that elite school in video clips which usually have more to do with a scandal or tragedy of some sort than they do with the mission of the school and its academics. Amid all the sensationalism comes the subliminal message that 'this is a great school". Then there are various sites which purport to rank private K-12 schools.

Where ranking private K-12 schools comes unglued is the fact that each private school is unique. They are all different. They each approach their educational missions from their own unique perspectives. Yes, in a general sense they have a common mission which is to educate your child. However, because each school has its own approach, its own facilities and programs, they cannot be compared apples to apples. I used to be a real estate broker back in the 80s. I often fall back on that experience of finding the right house for my clients when it comes to advising parents on the right school for their children. The analogy is apt. For example, the couple who want a 3 bedroom house on 3 acres of land will find dozens of listings for them to look at. Are they all the

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Choosing a Private School

EVALUATING SCHOOLS