Assessing a School - Essential Questions

After a careful examination of printed materials and of school websites, one should call admission offices to make appointments for interviews and school visits, to take place while the school is in session. This is a time for the parent to ask the questions not answered in the literature and for the child to discover the character of the school through a tour, class visits, and conversations with other students. This should ideally extend over a full day in a day school and at least 24 hours in a boarding school. The Admissions Office will describe the procedures for applications and the selection process.

Assessing a School - Essential Questions
Before making an application, parents should ask themselves, “is this school appropriate to my child's intellectual, emotional, social, and physical needs and capacities”?  Ask of each school the questions that follow. Some answers may be found in the school's literature, others only by visiting the school.

Location and Facilities
  • Is the school within 45 minutes of your home?
    If there is no suitable day option close by, consider a boarding school.
  • What sort of physical accommodations does the school afford?
  • Are there facilities for the particular kinds of activities in which your child wants to participate?
  • Do the students respect the facility? 
  • Do the rooms and halls give visual encouragement to learning?


  • What is the school's philosophy?
  • What does the school say about the kind of child it means to serve, about its approaches to learning, about the moral climate it fosters, about its devotion to traditional or modernist ways?


  • What is the evidence of student accomplishment?
  • Standardized test scores (e.g. SATs, SSATs) and records of admission to secondary schools or colleges, are good indicators of the quality of the student body, not necessarily of the school.
  • The schools of worth are those whose students are helped to realize their highest potential, to acquire a permanent appetite for learning, and to develop a moral character.
  • The students themselves, present and former, can tell one better than statistics about how their school helped them achieve those ends.


  • Who heads the school?
  • What are the head's qualifications for leading the school?
  • Do the school's character and the head's convictions about education mesh?


  • Who are the teachers?
  • What is their education and experience? 
  • Why have they chosen to teach?
  • Ask the teachers:
  • How much autonomy they have in determining the curriculum.
  • How much of their time is taken up with non-teaching duties.
  • Whether they believe the school’s rules are clear and consistently enforced.
  • How and when report cards are issued and what sorts of information they contain.


  • How genuine are the opportunities for students to play an active part in the affairs of the school community?
  • What is the social climate in the school?
  • What do the students value most?


  • How do the students look upon the school?
  • What proportion of enrolled students return for succeeding years?
  • For what reasons do students leave?
  • Ask students:
  • Are they proud of the school?
  • How tough are their classes?
  • How much homework do they have on a typical night?
  • Do they regard disciplinary procedures as fair?
  • Do they feel that the teachers listen to them?

Parent Involvement

  • How involved are parents in activities supportive of the school community?
  • How does the school keep parents informed about what is going on?
  • How does the school handle parental concerns?


  • Is the school accredited by a properly authorized agency
    Accreditation means that a school has undertaken a formal self-evaluation and has had that self-study verified. In New York State only NYSAIS and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools are authorized by the Regents to grant such accreditation.


  • What kind of support in counseling, both academic and personal, does the school afford?
NYSAIS Events Registration
    • May 13, 2021 Diversity Practioners Conference 2021: Divesting from Systems of Oppression, Investing in Communities of Transformative Freedom 10:00 AM to 4:00 PMeSeminar
      This event will meet over three separate days: May 13, 19, and 21, 2021 from 10 a.m.-12 noon; and 4-6 p.m. on each day
      Online via zoom
      Keynote speakers: adrienne maree brown and Yolanda Sealey Ruiz
      Presenters: Franny Choi, Dr. Adam Falkner, Carlos Andrés Gómez, Lauren Whitehead
      Audience: Equity and Diversity Practitioners (Directors, Coordinators, Liaisons, etc.), Members of Equity and Diversity Committees/Councils

      Hosted by NYSAIS Diversity Committee

      Details and registration here.
    • May 13, 2021 Grading for Equity: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms 4:00 PM to 5:30 PMeSeminar
      Online via zoom
      Presenter: Joe Feldman and Dr. Shantha Smith, Crescendo Education Group
      4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
      Audience: Middle and Upper School teachers and administrators
      Details and registration here.
    • May 17, 2021 Finishing Well - Retiring from Schoolwork During a Pandemic 4:00 PM to 5:30 PMeSeminar
      Online via zoom
      Presenter: Jennifer Bryan, Re-Set School
      4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
      Audience: School personnel who are retiring in 2021
      Details and registration here.
    • May 18, 2021 Community Matters: Advisory Program 4:00 PM to 5:30 PMeSeminar
      Online via zoom
      Presenter: Katie Leo, Facing History and Ourselves
      4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
      Audience: Teachers and Administrators, grades 5-12
      Details and registration here.
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© 2013 New York State Association of Independent Schools

site map   |   privacy policy   |   contact us
17 Elk Street (First Floor)     Albany, NY 12207     Tel: 518-694-5500     Fax: 518-694-5501

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