Choosing a School
Choosing an independent school for your child can be a daunting task. The best choice is a school that supports the needs, interests, values and personal preferences of a student and his or her family.
Some publications offer a ranking of independent schools that, at first glance, may seem to provide a quick way to make a sound judgment. In fact, rankings can be very misleading.
To begin with, many fine schools are excluded entirely from the lists because magazines are not familiar with them. Furthermore, though the media look at many aspects of schools when they calculate rankings, too often their data simplify what is actually complex. For example, salary statistics can be particularly deceptive: Some boarding schools include housing in their compensation figures while others do not, making it difficult to compare salaries at different schools. Financial aid stats also are tricky: One school may choose to give small aid grants to a large percentage of its students while a different school gives large grants to a small percentage of its students, causing readers to infer that the first school is dispersing more aid.
In academics, many highly competitive schools are opting to forgo Advanced Placement (AP) courses in favor of creating their own demanding curricula; yet some rankings continue to list APs among the criteria of excellence. And while lower matriculation rates may suggest that fewer graduates attend college, they actually often reflect a “gap” year taken by many students to pursue study or volunteer work. All of these examples, as well as many others, can affect a school’s ranking and profile in ways that do not accurately reflect the strength and value of the education offered.
The best way to learn about schools is to read their written materials and their websites carefully, visit campus and classes, and talk to students who have attended the schools, as well as to students’ parents. The Association of Independent Schools of New England (AISNE) urges you to look at all aspects of a school when making your decisions.
1. School’s mission and philosophy statements
2. Boarding vs. day school
3. Urban vs. rural setting
4. Coed vs. single sex
5. Religious affiliation or not
6. Diversity of school community
7. Large, medium or small student body
8. Breadth and depth of curriculum
9. World languages taught
10. Strength of athletics program
11. Strength of arts program
13. Secondary school academic and college advisory programs
14. Weekend activity schedules
As you enter the process of seeking an independent school for your child, always feel free to ask questions. We, the independent schools of New England, welcome your partnership in finding the right school for your child.
This statement was written by members of RISC (Regional Independent School Communicators), an organization of communications professionals at independent schools throughout New England.