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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Checklist for Comparing Schools: Administration and Faculty
Here are some of the questions to ask and things to look for when comparing schools' administration and faculty.
When you begin comparing schools on your short list, it is important to at least be aware of certain important aspects of the school and its operation. While you can certainly tell whether a school is well-run just by visiting it and observing the condition of the grounds and facilities, it is worth asking a few detailed questions. The answers to these questions can be found online as a rule, so explore the school's website thoroughly before asking the admissions staff.
 
How long has the head of school/principal been in office?
 
This question speaks to the stability of the school. If the headmaster or headmistress (also called head and occasionally director) has been there for a couple of years, that's a good sign. Private school heads will stay forever if they are doing a good job and the trustees are satisfied with his job performance. Nowadays a private school head is the de facto CEO of the school. But his major responsibility is going to be in the area of fundraising. Public relations is another part of his brief.
 
If the door to the headmaster's office has become a revolving one with several heads coming and going over a period of a few years, you might want to find out why they didn't stay. Most private schools conduct national searches for a head of school and involve the school community in the process. So it would be unusual for a school to get the fit wrong.
 
Is there a strategic plan in place?
 
Granted,
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5 Questions Your Consultant Can Ask and You Can't
Use an educational consultant to ask those tough questions you are not comfortable asking.

We parents are in a rather difficult position when it comes to finding out information about private schools. Because they are private schools, they are not subject to the usual sunshine or freedom of information laws. They are just like a privately-held company. They are under no legal obligation to tell you or the general public anything. You need to know exactly what is lurking behind those gorgeous web photos and enthusiastic classroom shots. You need to know the condition of the school from reliable sources. That's where hiring an educational consultant comes in. These professionals know their schools from the arts curriculum to the vintage of the Zamboni machine used on the hockey rink. This is information which you need in order to permit you to make the informed decisions you need to make about finding the right private school for your child.
 
One caveat, and it is a major one: there are educational consultants who claim to be able to get you into a school. Be careful. The sign of the genuine article is an educational consultant who will offer to help you find the best match for you and your child's requirements. Just be aware.

The following questions are ones you might want to ask but probably feel uncomfortable asking. That's why it's a good thing to  hire an educational consultant. She can ask such questions with relative impunity. Plus she will think of dozens of other questions and raise many other issues about

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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.
 
 
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.
 
 
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.
 
 
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.
 
 
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
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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
 
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Choosing a Private School

EVALUATING SCHOOLS