Philadelphia Medicine Spring 2020 - 22
p h i l a m e d s o c .org
GUIDE TO EVALUATING
AND APPLYING TO
By: Sarah C. Reese, Education Consultant
any physicians, like other parents and grandparents,
consider an independent (or private) school for a child
at one point or another during the K-12 school years.
The reasons are many: a child might need extra challenge and push
or she might need support for a learning disability; she might be
lost in the shuffle in a large public school or undermotivated. Or, a
social issue could be the concern: too many friends of perhaps not
quite the right sort, too few friends, or worse, the victim of bullying.
How does one determine if a change to an independent school
is the solution? How to identify the best independent school for
When parents ask me if they should explore an independent
school for a child, I ask them to outline what they are looking for
in an independent school. Are their expectations reasonable? What
might be lost by leaving the current public school? A rule of thumb
is that public schools do a very good job with both very academically
talented, outgoing and involved students as well as with students who
have learning differences. Most area public school offer a wide range
of challenging honors and AP courses for capable students yet also
provide excellent learning disability support for those who need it.
But is your child caught in the middle, or not flourishing? Not
getting his needs met?
Southeastern Pennsylvania offers an unusual range of independent
school choices including boarding and day schools, single sex schools,
schools that offer rigorous college prep and those that support a
student with a diagnosed learning disability.
Most independent schools offer significantly smaller class sizes than
public schools, teachers who often remain on campus after school
for extra help sessions and to coach sports. Values such as honesty,
fair play, courtesy, kindness, generosity, respect and active concern
for the community are emphasized. The schools are designed to
free teachers to offer optimal instruction in smaller class sizes, often
with no more than 15 students. College counseling is very personal,
and students have ready access to targeted information and support
throughout the process.
22 Philadelphia Medicine : Spring 2020
Transportation need not be a concern. I quote from www.education.
pa.gov: Any public school district that provides transportation for its
pupils must provide transportation services to nonpublic pupils of the
same grade level that it is providing for its own pupils. The nonpublic
school must be nonprofit and located within ten miles of the district's
boundary, measured by the nearest public road. If the school building
in which the pupil is enrolled is not located within the ten-mile distance,
the nonpublic pupil is not eligible for transportation, nor are his parents
eligible for payment towards transportation costs.
If you are considering a boarding school, checking http://www.
boardingschools.com/ is an easy way to start. The website allows you
to search schools by state and also by type of school. An educational
consultant can be very useful when trying to evaluate a boarding
school's suitability for a particular student and to guide you through
the process. Many students develop real maturity and self-sufficiency
at the right boarding school. Boarding schools concern themselves
with all aspects of a student's development.
The admissions office is the front door to each school, but, increasingly some schools will not permit a visit until after an application
has been submitted. This is normally done online on the school's
website. Deadlines are often in late fall and for boarding schools on
about January 1, but some schools will still have spaces if you apply
later. After the application is submitted, you can call to schedule a
visit for you and your child. You will receive a campus tour and a
personal interview for parent and student when your questions can
be answered. You are likely to leave each school with a very clear
feeling for its values, programs and strengths and whether it is a
good match for your child's needs and strengths.
If your child is an athlete, meeting the coach of the sport
involved is important. In independent schools, most coaches also
are classroom teachers. Check the schedule for each team's season,
and discuss college recruitment if that is potentially in the picture.
Most independent school coaches are very prepared to assist with
recruitment, and are experienced with the process.
Most selective schools will require testing as part of the application process. For primary school students, this test is normally the
Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE https://www.
Philadelphia Medicine Spring 2020
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