Finding the private school that fits the needs of your child and your family requires lots of research and school visits. However, knowing that top private schools share some common characteristics can be helpful to parents who are evaluating school options. Three things that the best private schools do are:
- Address social/emotional development to build resilient children
- Prepare children for jobs that don’t yet exist
- Offer programs in addition to academics that help create well-rounded children
Address Social/Emotional Development
In addition to teaching core academic subjects, the best private schools help students at all grade levels develop their social/emotional skills. Teachers guide children in learning how to understand other people’s feelings, control their own feelings and behaviors, and get along with others. These skills, along with academic learning, provide the foundation students need for long-term academic success and personal growth. Beginning in Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten and continuing through eighth grade, High Meadows teaches social and emotional skills along with core academic subjects.
Psychologist and author Dr. Madeline Levine contends that society’s current view of success has become too narrowly focused on academic success and over-achievement to the detriment of the whole child. In her book Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More Than Grades, Trophies, or “Fat Envelopes,” she issues a call to action: “We must embrace a healthier and radically different way of thinking about success.” She identifies coping skills children must have which include resilience, resourcefulness and creativity.
Prepare Children for Jobs That Don’t Yet Exist
The best private schools also focus on preparing students for the jobs of the future, even when those jobs don’t yet exist. Karen Cator, CEO of Digital Promise and a former director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, notes that schools must prepare students with the skills for the evolving workplace which is being shaped by automation and artificial intelligence.
“The world is changing,” she said in a recent interview with EdSurge. “The actual jobs that will be available are ones that you do need a different kind of education for, and that’s what we need to pay attention to.”
She says that schools must help students develop critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, creativity, innovation and financial literacy skills. The best schools focus on these areas in addition to subjects like reading, writing, mathematics and science. High Meadows teachers encourage students to ask the next question, explore what matters to them and become respectful self-advocates. Through this dialogue and inquiry, students become reflective and motivated individuals prepared for long-term academic success and leadership as global citizens.
Offer Programs That Help Create Well-Rounded Children
The best private schools also offer afterschool programs that help create well-rounded children who are focused on more than just academic success.
Afterschool programs typically provide students the opportunity to explore a new interest or deepen an existing one in sports, performing and visual arts, technology, debate, community service projects and more. Research shows that effective afterschool programs can boost children’s academic performance, encourage interests in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM), and promote physical health, among other benefits.
Look to a School’s Mission Statement for Guidance
These three characteristics of the highest-rated private schools are just a few factors to consider when selecting the right place for your child. Other factors to consider include a school’s environmental emphasis, academic focus, religious curriculum (or lack thereof), diversity and inclusion programs, and global view. Laura Nicholson, Director of Admission at High Meadows School, suggests that parents look to a school’s mission statement to help understand what matters most to the school and evaluate how that fits with their family’s priorities and beliefs.