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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