Value of an Independent School

Allen Academy is an Independent School.

Independent schools are governed by their own boards of trustees.  They are financed by tuition payments, charitable contributions and endowment revenue, receiving little, if any, government funding.  They adhere to rigorous accreditation standards. What does this mean for parents, students and Allen Academy?

The National Educational Longitudinal Study, conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, found that students attending independent schools:

Independent schools are often described as schools that offer an education for the real world. We believe that our graduates are socially well-adjusted and are better prepared to enter the workforce or excel in post-secondary education.  Visit the National Association of Independent Schools website for more information on the value of an independent education.

We invite you to visit our campus to learn more about the benefits of an education for the real world.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why an independent school?

The goal of choosing a school is to match a child’s abilities, interests and needs with the most appropriate educational setting. Independent schools have unique missions, philosophies and core values. The right school for any child is the one that can best meet the needs of that child. This decision may be made at the beginning of your child’s educational career or even in “midstream”. If an independent school was not your initial choice, at some point in your child’s education, you may decide that your child is not thriving and you want to pursue a different learning community.

Independent, private, public….what’s the difference?

    • Public schools, funded by the state, are available free of charge for every child. There are many public schools options, including traditional, fundamental, magnet and charter schools. Public schools adhere to a set curriculum and all students participate in annual state standardized testing.
    • Private schools often have a religious affiliation and were founded by parents and community members who adhere to a certain philosophy. They are supported by their religious community as well as through tuition from parents.
    • Independent schools may be secular or religious and may be based on a particular educational philosophy. They are governed by a board of trustees that is solely responsible for the school and are independently funded, mostly through tuition. Independent schools are characterized by strong academics, adherence to quality standards, autonomy in choosing curriculum and adherence to school mission.

Why Choose an Independent School?

All types of schools typically administer annual standardized tests, but nonpublic schools are free to choose the testing program that best fits its educational goals, rather than state mandated tests.

What’s the process for applying to an independent school?

After researching the schools in your area by visiting web sites and talking with friends, neighbors, business associates and colleagues, call the school to arrange for a campus tour while school is in session. During the tour, ask key questions regarding curriculum, faculty, mission, extra-curricular activities and accommodations. Each school’s process will be unique, but in general, the steps following the school tour may include: completing an application, inquiring about a shadow date for your child, completing financial aid forms, if applicable, arranging for any required testing and contacting current school to have transcripts, testing results and references forwarded.

What is the relationship between the independent school, teacher and parents?

Independent schools adhere to a “triangle” approach to education – student, family and school. These three are linked together to ensure a solid education for each child. Thus, parents are considered integral to the success of their child. Regular communication, including parent-teacher conferences, online and/or paper progress reports, newsletters and, sometimes, parent portals, are the norm in an independent school. Parents are encouraged to be active participants in the life of the school.  Schools typically have a wealth of volunteer opportunities where your involvement will be welcomed.

Why do some people believe independent schools are exclusive or elitist?

Years ago, independent schools served only the affluent in our society; that is no longer the case.  Independent schools are now distinguished by adherence to mission, academic rigor, diversity, autonomy, character education, and service learning programs in an environment that fosters respect.

When is the best time to send my child to an independent school? Elementary, Middle or Upper school?

To fully benefit from an independent school education, the optimal time for a child to enroll is PreKindergarten or Kindergarten, while continuing in a similar school community through graduation. Independent elementary schools typically provide students with a solid academic base and study skills that will be beneficial for a lifetime.  Middle schools usually focus on the emerging young adults; many schools have advisory and character education programs to guide students though this transitional stage. Independent upper schools generally provide rigorous academic work, opportunities for leadership, service-learning in the community and athletics, and opportunities for strong college placement guidance.

Do independent schools have good sports programs?

Independent schools typically offer a wide range of sports, often have excellent facilities, and encourage students to participate and experience multiple sports. Independent schools recognize the importance of extra-curricular activities and are therefore committed to a successful program.

What can I expect from teachers in an independent school?

Faculty who choose to teach at an independent school are passionate about children and committed to excellence in their subject area.  They understand the value of forming relationships with students and working with students in many capacities (classroom teacher, club sponsor, coach, advisor).  They value the autonomy they are given in the creation and implementation of curriculum that both meets the school mission and engages students. Teachers value the parent/teacher/student relationship and welcome parent input.

What is the value of small class size for my child?

Small classes allow faculty to truly get to know each child.  Teachers have time to monitor progress, answer questions in depth, and build a relationship with each child.  Additionally, small class size allows time for interdisciplinary projects, collaboration, technology integration, and field trips.

My child has a learning difference. Is there any room for my child in an independent school?

There are NAIS schools whose missions are dedicated to students with learning differences. In addition, some schools have an academic support program with specialists trained to work with children and their unique learning styles and differences.

Independent school tuition is quite high. How will I know if my family will qualify for financial assistance?

Financial assistance is based on family need; many families with above-average family incomes will qualify for some support.  The amount of assistance varies from school to school.  As part of the admission process, many schools will allow you to submit a Financial Aid form, which is the initial step in calculating the financial aid award.  The average NAIS school in the region provides financial aid to 16.7% of its families (NAIS Statistics 2011-12).

How will an independent school education prepare my child for the “real world” in a 21st century society?

Independent schools increasingly adhere to the following values and skills that are crucial for success in the 21st century, according to former NAIS President Pat Bassett:  Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, Critical thinking, Character Education and Cosmopolitism, or the understanding of global communities.  In the fall 2011 edition of Independent School magazine, an NAIS publication, an article entitled “Independent Schools: A Well-rounded Preparation for College and beyond”, cites impressive comparative statistics between public and independent school graduates.

Sources include: NAIS Statistics 2011-12, Independent School, NAIS Publication Fall 2011, AISNE website, Independents: The Newsletter of the Florida Council of Independent Schools (FCIS), Sept/Oct 2012, CAPE 2012 newsletter, FCIS Office website, November 2012.

NAIS.org