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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5 Features Every Private High School Should Have
These features are the main reasons why you are considering sending your child to private high school.

When you start thinking about sending your child to private school, you will spend a lot of time reviewing school websites. As you do that, bear in mind that you see what the schools want you to see. Think of the private school website as its front door and entrance hall, and you will get the idea. Once you get to the next stage of the school search process, look for the following five features which every good private school should have. Doing your due diligence will take a lot of your time but is necessary to confirm that schools on your short list meet your needs and requirements.

Small Classes

Small classes are at the top of the list of features which every private school should have. If the private high school which you are looking at doesn't have small classes, what is the point of taking your child out of public school? Obviously, the adjective small can be interpreted in different ways. Typically a class size of 12-15 students will allow students plenty of interaction with their teacher. That interaction is a critical part of learning and is one of the features which you must look for when you consider sending your child to a private high school.

Small classes mean that your child won't just be a number.  She cannot fall through the cracks. She will not be able to hide in a small class. Some teens prefer to sit on the

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Checklist for Comparing Schools - Curriculum and Instruction
What's being taught and how it is being taught are important parts of your checklist for comparing schools on your short list.
When you begin comparing schools on your short list, you need to review what is being taught and how it is being taught. Instruction goes to the heart of what private schools are really all about. That is the main reason private schools exist. Parents want certain things taught and they want them taught a certain way. The state education department will require every school under its jurisdiction to meet certain minimum requirements. For example, a high school student must receive a certain number of credits in English and mathematics in order to graduate. Private schools typically exceed any minimums specified by the state department of education.
 
With this as a backdrop you want to take time to review the courses offered in the schools on your short list. Do they match your objectives and requirements? Do they offer the depth and intensity which you want your child to have? For example, Shakespeare is taught in many public high school English courses. Typically one play will be covered. By contrast a private school English class will read two or three Shakespeare plays. Because private school classes are small and the students focused on their academic work, much more can be accomplished.
 
International Baccalaureate
 
About thirty private schools offer a curriculum known as the International Baccalaureate. It is a comprehensive program which covers kindergarten through 12th grade. The diploma program is offered in high school. Like any other international diploma the IB offers consistency and a high standard. As a result
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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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Choosing a Private School

EVALUATING SCHOOLS