What is an Independent School?

I have the pleasure of meeting many prospective families each year, who ask many questions such as, “How much is tuition?” Or, “What is the teacher to student ratio? What is your college acceptance rate?” All of these types of questions have simple answers because they are just numbers and statistics that are easy to quantify. 

Throughout my career at various schools across the country, I’ve met many types of parents in different stages of life with unique backgrounds. No matter where I have worked, the one question I am always asked by prospective parents is: “What is an independent school?”

Because education has evolved and developed throughout the years, the answer to this question is not always so simple. Oftentimes, this answer requires an understanding of the culture, foundation, and affiliations of the specific independent school.  

What is an independent school?

According to the article, “What are Independent Private Schools?” published by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), “Independent schools are close-knit communities that provide students with individualized attention. They challenge students to stretch their minds and go beyond academics to develop responsible, independent, and community-oriented students. An independent school’s philosophy is driven by a unique mission. Independent schools are accountable to their communities and are accredited by state-approved accrediting bodies.”

“Independent schools come in all shapes and sizes. Independent schools include elementary and secondary schools; day and boarding schools; single-sex and coeducational schools. Some independent schools are religiously affiliated and others are not. They vary in size and educational approach.”

Pretty simple answer right? Although the answer provided by NAIS may seem broad, in actuality I find their answer to be quite straightforward.

I am originally from New England where it seems like there is an independent school on nearly every corner! Whether that corner was nestled between two subdivisions, or the corner took up several blocks within the city, you could find an independent school just about anywhere you looked. But even this proves the point NAIS was trying to make— independent schools come in different shapes and sizes. Independent schools include elementary and secondary schools; day and boarding schools; single-sex and coeducational schools.

Currently, in Northwest Arkansas, independent schools are not quite as common. As you begin your school search, you may ask questions about our school’s tuition, philosophy, or about our teacher-student ratio, questions I can answer without thinking. When you ask me what exactly is an independent school, I can of course read word for word what NAIS says, but I often end up answering the question with an invitation to come and see us here at The New School. I know you'll get your answer when you can see what is going on in our classroom where students develop social-emotional skills, explore nature outside on the playgrounds, participate in daily STEAM opportunities, build character in our upper school advisory program and when you observe all of the great opportunities available to our students and families. 

By visiting campus with your child, parents can see first hand that The New School is not just an independent school by definition, but a community of learners, thinkers and doers. Finding the right school for your student and your family can be difficult, and that right fit may not be at The New School. Visiting campus through a tour, asking why should you choose an independent school and other questions valuable to your family, and meeting members of the school community are all important steps in determining whether or not any school is the right fit. 

Our parents, students, faculty and staff are ready to welcome your family into The New School community. If you know a current parent, I encourage you to reach out to them about the impact an independent school like The New School has had on their child. Or if you're new to the area, I would be happy to introduce you to one of our parents to learn more about their experience. 

I do not want to just tell you what an independent school is, I want to show you why our families continue to choose The New School and why we believe The New School could be the best fit for your child and for your family. 

Jack Sweeney

Director of Enrollment and Admission

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