Could an Independent School be an Option for Your Child?

With financial aid, community organizations and a support network, you may have more educational options than you think

Education is a hot topic these days, especially in light of the provocative, powerful film Waiting for Superman. It would astound many black parents, most of whom are painfully familiar with our nation’s failing public schools, to learn that there are excellent private, college preparatory schools that would pay to have their children attend them. Though most of these schools are majority White, many are eager to connect with the African-American community, other communities of color, and those from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. Implicit in this stated interest in diversity is a commitment to extend financial assistance to those who need it. But would an investment in independent schooling be a worthy one for your child?

Sandra E. Timmons, president of A Better Chance, the only national organization that identifies, recruits, places, and supports students of color in independent college preparatory schools, says these schools work because of their holistic approach. “It’s not just about the academics,” she says. “There’s also the community service and high cultural aspects that promote a love of learning. The campuses are beautiful and comfortable, so students feel like the school is theirs—they own it. Teachers aren’t disciplinarian or authoritarian—no one’s going to yell at your kids and tell them to get out of the hallway. They’re free to lounge around, read, or study, and achievement is expected from all students.”

 Timmons also says the teachers have room to be innovative. Because they aren’t bound by a prescriptive curriculum, they’re free to create one that’s engaging and flexible.

 Susan Fox, whose son, Lucien, has attended Dalton, an independent school in New York City for all six of his years of schooling, is happy with her son’s experiences.

“He was a very bright toddler, and I was concerned that he wouldn’t be challenged or understood in a public school setting,” says Fox. Fox felt that her son needed to be challenged and nurtured. His school’s highly stimulating, creative environment has been a good fit for him, and she encourages Black parents of all socio-economic backgrounds to explore independent schooling for their children.

“Look for schools that offer robust, flexible after-school care,” she suggests. “That’s one indication of their interest in attracting diverse families.”

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  • http://www.4RIISE.org Gina Parker Collins

    Thank you Robin for sharing alternatives in qualilty education. There is nothing like an independent school education! Many families of color balance this quality education with racial, cultural, and socio-economic disparities. As a parent of two attending an independent school, navigating the dynamics is complex, but worth the effort. In support of the well-balanced retention of independent school ed among families of color, Resources In Independent School Education – RIISE, was founded. Our virtual an live community provides resources and research for families of color that encourage vested interest and well-balanced retention of an independent school education. RIISE also helps to further the diversity intiatives of member independent schools to protect, retain, and attract families of color. We encourage more families to learn about and experience the virtues of an independent school! Please visit us at http://www.4RIISE.org.

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  • http://innyasworld.blogspot.com Nya M.

    As an individual who attended a private school and public school I am both encouraged and discouraged by this article. While private schools do offer more to children I find it disheartening that a private school education may be perceived as the only option for a quality education. Parents of children who attend private schools are more involved with their child’s education than the children who attend public school.
    It seems as if the level of expectation is lower in public schools, especially urban schools. Communities have lost the sense of pride, involvement, and responsibility. The availability of a quality education should not be limited to the students of private/suburban schools. Should we, Blacks, be aware of the resources available to us? Yes. But we shouldn’t think that outside sources are the only options available to us. I even wrote about it http://innyasworld.blogspot.com/2010/12/nya-culture-community-long-way-to-go.html