What makes independent schools different?

With September upon us, we can now officially say to the students and families who have recently gotten the 2016-17 school year underway, Happy New Year! This time of year is marked by exciting new possibilities; meeting new teachers, making new friends, and developing new passions and interests are the perennial blessings of life at all of our schools. That sense of newness is especially true at independent schools like Georgetown Day School that welcome dozens, if not hundreds, of new students and families who renew our schools each fall.

For those of you already thinking ahead to 2017, you know that there is no shortage of school options in Washington, DC. And with a proliferating multitude of public, charter, parochial, alternative, blended, and magnet schools, it can be challenging to know what options you have as you seek to ensure that your children are in schools that are the best possible fit for them. So what makes independent schools different from others?

Being independently operated and independently funded means that our schools have the ability to maintain small class sizes in which each student is known well. We have the autonomy to hire the most passionate and talented teachers who will inspire our students to learn beyond the books. And we have the freedom to develop innovative curricula without hewing to state and federal mandates. Independent schools are learning environments where families choose to be.

Students at independent schools report experiencing their education as having fostered a true sense of purpose and belonging, which research shows is essential to their success in school and in life. Students at independent schools are more engaged with subjects and activities that inspire them, they develop closer relationships with their peers and teachers, and—despite many of our schools’ aspiration to move beyond the “college prep” moniker—our students are more equipped than their public school counterparts for success in college.

At Georgetown Day School, we know that we are not merely preparing students for the next phase of their academic careers—as Head of School Russell Shaw points out, we are preparing our students to be healthy 35-year-olds who are fully engaged in the world. We know that in addition to learning how to read deeply, compute proficiently, and write well, our students must also learn how to collaborate in diverse environments if they are to solve the complex challenges of our 21st century. We give our students opportunities to innovate and create, to take risks and learn from failure, and to be advocates for themselves and for others.

And while you understandably might not yet be ready to concede that your little ones will one day be 35, independent schools are already thinking about how best to prepare them for exciting futures that remain presently unknown. We hope you will pay GDS a visit this fall as you explore the best place for you and your children on this exciting journey!

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