Schools of Thought
A look at critical aspects of independent schooling
Berkshire School, Sheffield, MA
Enrollment: 375, 9 - 12, berkshireschool.org
Since its establishment in 1907, Berkshire School faculty have used the school’s backyard—Mount Everett—to teach students respect for natural resources. Berkshire School, for grades 9 to 12, is a coed (mostly) boarding, and day school. A wealth of electives in science, history, and fine arts supplements its rigorous college-preparatory core curriculum. An extensive athletic-development program offers rock climbing, kayaking, and biking in addition to competitive sports.
Bi-Cultural Day School, Stamford, CT
Enrollment: 400, Pre-K – 8, bcds.org
This 55-year-old independent American-Jewish school, nestled on over 13 acres in Stamford, provides a warm and nurturing environment for its 400 students. Parents often choose Bi-Cultural because of small class size and the emphasis placed on both dual heritage and character development. Along with strong programs in academics and Jewish studies, leadership skills and teamwork are also stressed. Parents find that their children are well prepared for the challenges of high school, college, and beyond. Added bonus: A three-week trip to Israel for the entire eighth grade, “a transformative experience,” raves one parent.
Brunswick School, Greenwich, CT
Enrollment: 950, Pre-K - 12, all boys, brunswickschool.org
A tradition in Greenwich since 1902, once at the upper-school level the boys join the girls from neighboring Greenwich Academy. Brunswick’s skilled teachers are specifically trained to focus on boys’ needs at every stage of their development. “Top-notch college placement, excellent academics, and strong values attracted us. Brunswick doesn’t want to just churn out smart kids, it wants to produce good kids,” says a mother. Added bonus: Outstanding facilities, including an incomparable athletic complex, and a newly renovated center for the arts.
The Canaan Ridge School, Stamford, CT
Enrollment: 86, Pre-K - 2, canaanridgeschool.org
Multi-age classrooms on this ten-acre campus offer opportunities for children to learn in different ways and at an individual pace, with program acceleration available when a child exhibits a readiness for more involved skills. Parents and children are fans of the science program, a hands-on, inquiry-based program. Added bonus: Individual attention creates a private tutorial-like learning experience.
Canterbury School, New Milford, CT
Enrollment: 357, 9 - 12, cbury.org
Canterbury School enrolls 357 boys and girls in a boarding and day, college-preparatory program for grades 9 through 12. The school is known for a strong fine-arts program and an exciting sports program. The campus is situated on a hilltop, in an area of natural beauty near the Housatonic River. While Canterbury was founded in 1915 by prominent lay Catholics, today the student body is a diverse mix of both Catholics and non-Catholics from 12 countries and 19 states. Added bonus: A state-of-the-art aquatics center featuring an eight-lane, Olympic-size pool built for racing and competitive diving.
Chase Collegiate School, Waterbury, CT
Enrollment: 471, Pre-K – 12, chasecollegiate.org
Chase Collegiate School, home to 471 students, keeps its average class size between 11 and 15. The faculty and administration strive to inspire in each student a lifelong passion for learning, personal achievement, and contribution to the community. Efforts to do so include attracting and supporting a talented and dedicated faculty, teaching clear and concise written and spoken communication, critical thinking, analytical problem solving, and technological sophistication. The school also encourages respect, courtesy, responsibility, and kindness among students and promotes community service through good citizenship and concern for others. Family commitment to the school is important as is cultivating support for the school’s distinguished history and traditions. Added bonus: The Buddy Program fosters the development of the Chase Community by connecting lower-, middle-, and upper-school students in close and meaningful ways.
Choate Rosemary Hall, Wallingford, CT
Enrollment: 831, 9 - Post-grad, choate.edu
Choate Rosemary Hall serves over 800 students in third through sixth forms (grades 9 to post-graduate), about one-quarter of whom are day students. Choate Rosemary Hall’s curriculum offers all students firm grounding in the fundamentals of clear thinking and expression, and for each individual student emphasizes his or her personal development. Special interests are not just accepted but supported; for example, motivated and independent science students can participate in the science research program in a bona-fide research lab. Students with exceptional talent and passion for the arts are given the opportunity and flexibility to concentrate in the visual arts, music performance, or theater. In the Capstone Program, talented seniors can explore one area of the curriculum in great depth. Choate’s athletic department likes to grow their own athletes by giving kids a chance to come up through the ranks and resists the temptation to recruit over them. An alumnus of the school mused, “I will always miss the close sense of community Choate provided. I know I will never recreate the same relationships I had with teachers and friends in boarding school, and I feel so lucky I was even able to have that opportunity. Choate instilled a high moral standard and value system which I was able to feel proud of after graduation.” Added bonus: The school offers opportunities for a full term of study in China, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
Connecticut Friends School, Wilton, CT
Enrollment: 60, K - 8, ctfriendsschool.org
Connecticut Friends School is a small-by-design grammar school, with 60 students in classes organized by developmental age rather than by grade, and therefore typically with two or three age groups together in each classroom. Since the opening of the first Friends school in Philadelphia in 1689, social, ethical, academic and spiritual development have been hallmarks of every Friends school, and Connecticut Friends School is no different. The inclusive Quaker values of community, peace, integrity, simplicity, equality, and stewardship of the earth make up the foundation here. The student-teacher ratio guarantees students are individually guided in discovering and improving their passions and gifts. Students promote a culture of kindness, rather than ‘coolness.’ Parents are drawn to CFS for its emphasis on conflict resolution. As one student explains, “At my old school the most popular kids were cruel. Here at CFS the kids who are most admired are the ones who include everyone and stick up for fairness.” Added bonus: Students participate in an outdoor-education and leadership program every other week.
Convent of the Sacred Heart, Greenwich, CT
Enrollment: 775, Pre-K - 12, all girls, cshgreenwich.org
Founded in 1848, Sacred Heart is a Catholic, independent school for girls situated on a 110-acre campus. Parents often choose CSH for the single-sex education, academic excellence, spiritual foundation, and modern facilities. The challenging curriculum offers interesting electives in subjects such as broadcast journalism, Chinese, and world religions. Added bonus: A state-of-the-art, observatory provides views of the night sky.
Dana Hall School, Wellesley, MA
Enrollment: 487, 9 - 12, all girls, danahall.org
A boarding and day school, Dana Hall fosters growth in both ability and character for its middle- and upper-school girls. Through rigorous core requirements, students are exposed to the challenges of analytical and creative thinking. Teachers fuel the classroom with continuously fresh knowledge and different perspectives from their sabbatical travels, which keep the students alive with debates and curiosity. Latin is required for all sixth-graders, after which they have the choice of continuing Latin or beginning a new language. Upper-school students select from a variety of electives, including marine science, Middle Eastern studies, and ceramics. Overall, Dana Hall nurtures the growth of young women into confident, respectful leaders that are well prepared for college. Additional bonus: Dana Hall also has a riding center and a school of music.
Eagle Hill School, Greenwich, CT
Enrollment: 250, K - 12, eaglehillschool.org
Eagle Hill offers a language-based, day and boarding, remedial program dedicated to children ages six to 16 with learning disabilities. The curriculum is individualized, interdisciplinary, and transitional in nature. A secure, structured, nurturing environment supports and stimulates the development of the whole child. As a result, children learn to view themselves as competent individuals with a strong sense of self. Students are required to take weekly art and music classes, in addition to drama, visual arts, and computer graphics. A recent alum said, “EHS is a very helpful experience for students troubled with learning disorders because the teachers give students more time than other schools. They teach how to be organized and how to study properly.” Added bonus: The school offers weekly parent support groups, monthly seminars, and speakers on topics related to children with learning differences.
Eagle Hill-Southport, Southport, CT
Enrollment: 110, K - 8, eaglehillsouthport.org
The mission of Eagle Hill-Southport, located in historic Southport village, is to help children with learning disabilities develop a foundation of skills, gain an understanding of their abilities, and prepare for a more traditional schooling program. Eagle Hill emphasizes academic, social, and athletic skill development and strives to prepare its students to be independent learners and citizens. Each student’s program is individualized and includes a mix of academic classes, tutorials, and extracurricular activities that reflect the child’s diagnosed needs and unique learning profile. Students who are not involved in team sports participate in the elective activity classes. Added bonus: For the past several years Eagle Hill-Southport has taken a group of students to an outdoor adventure camp. Group activities in which students face various challenges and problems are designed to increase cohesiveness among the team and improve communication skills.
The Ethel Walker School, Simsbury, CT
Enrollment: 275, 6 - 12, all girls, ethelwalker.org
Ethel Walker School, founded in 1911, is an independent, college-preparatory, boarding and day school for girls in grades six through 12. This diverse community of learners and friends strives to live according to the values of honor and excellence. Each young woman finds her unique voice and learns to contribute it in the pursuit of these values. Learning at Walker’s does not end in the classroom. The school offers an extensive array of extracurricular options for both day and boarding students to tap into—be it activities, clubs, or leadership positions. The athletics program strives to promote healthy competition and the ideals of sportsmanship and respect. Added bonus: EWS’s nationally acclaimed equestrian program has gained recognition as one of the leading scholastic equestrian programs in the country. Whatever their skill level or interest, riders learn much about the art and sport of riding in a magnificent setting.
Ezra Academy, Woodbridge, CT
Enrollment: 180, K - 8, ezraacademy.net
As a Solomon Schechter Jewish day school, Ezra attracts a regional community of students, families, and faculty. For more than four decades, the school has educated children in a nurturing environment that fosters academic excellence and a strong faith. Ezra integrates secular and Judaic studies, arts enrichment, and a values-based program to develop accomplished young adults who are poised to embrace their future, secure in what they know and who they are. Dedicated, professional faculty members emphasize differentiated instruction for each of Ezra’s students, so that each child is empowered to reach his full potential. As one alumna wrote, “You were not simply my teachers; you were and continue to be my mentors. Because of Ezra’s small size, students are blessed with the opportunity to form relationships with each and every one of you. I cannot thank you enough for helping me learn, not only about the world around me, but also about myself.” Added bonus: Class size is capped at 15.
Fairfield College Preparatory School, Fairfield, CT
Enrollment: 925, 9 - 12, all boys, fairfieldprep.org
Fairfield College Preparatory School, located on the 200-acre semi-rural campus of Fairfield University, is by tradition and choice a Jesuit, Catholic high school of excellence. The school strives to accomplish its mission by demonstrating personal care and concern for all of its 925 male students and by celebrating each one’s unique gifts. In turn, students are expected to become responsible participants in the Prep community and beyond and are encouraged to use their talents in the service of others, especially those in need. The school is part of a worldwide network of educational institutions that embrace and carry out the Jesuit mission of educating young men and women to be leaders in every aspect of contemporary society. Added bonus: With a tuition hovering around $15,000, FCPS provides outstanding value for a first-class, college-prep education.
Fairfield Country Day School, Fairfield, CT
Enrollment: 278, K - 9, all boys, fairfieldcountryday.org
“We are judged by our deeds” drives the school’s mission of developing every aspect of a boy: mind, body, and spirit. Parents send their sons here because of the individual attention and because of the wide variety of extracurricular and academic opportunities offered. Added bonus: Environmental education is integrated into the curriculum and students are encouraged to develop habits that model a “green” lifestyle.
The Forman School, Litchfield, CT
Enrollment: 172, 9-12, formanschool.org
The Forman School is a coeducational boarding and day school for students with dyslexia, ADHD and other learning differences. The Forman Program is a rigorous college preparatory curriculum under the guidance of experts in their discipline, with state-of-the-art assistive technology to help the learning process. A student-to-faculty ratio of 1:3 and an average class size of 8 ensures a personalized learning experience tailored to individual needs. Forman stresses character development so that students learn to make thoughtful, valued based decisions in life. Its transitional curriculum prepares seniors . All strategies Forman employs have been developed and validated by the Center of Research on Learning at the University of Kansas for enhancing learning in mainstream high schools. Added bonus: Forman offers many different programs for experiential learning, including an expedition to the rainforest in Costa Rica.
The Fraser-Woods School, Newtown, CT
Enrollment: 211, Pre-K - 8, fraserwoods.com
The charming red clapboard and stone entrance to the Fraser-Woods School belies its unique 42,000-square-foot facility built around an interior garden, enclosed by 20-foot-high glass walls that shed natural light into the classrooms, library, and computer lab. Hallways with artwork in museum-quality frames connect classrooms to the school’s science labs, art and music studios, and gymnasium. The students range in age from 18 months to 14 years, but no matter the age, each child is known well, understood, and accepted by all of the members of the community. Embracing the principles of Dr. Maria Montessori, the school utilizes mixed-age classes and may have an individual teacher work together with a student for up to three years. The Special Assistance Program is designed to help two sets of students: those who are gifted and those with learning differences. Added bonus: Fun after-school programs like Strategic Games Club, robotics, Suzuki guitar, sports, and Tae Kwon Do.
The Glenholme School, a Devereux Center, Washington Depot, CT
Enrollment: 105, 6 - 12, theglenholmeschool.org
As a boarding school for students with special needs, The Glenholme School offers an individually prescribed learning environment with a steadfast academic curriculum. Glenholme specializes in helping students with Asperger’s, ADD, ADHD, and/or emotional, behavioral, or learning disabilities. Using effective individualized services, the school applies a positive behavior support model focused on the development of social skills and lifelong strategies for success. Added bonus: The student website provides fun content and updates to the community.
Greens Farms Academy, Westport, CT,
Enrollment: 650, K - 12, gfacademy.org
Green Farms Academy recently polled its constituents and learned that they value the school for three prominent reasons: its culture of achievement, sense of community, and focus on character. The K through 12, coed day school is bordered by a salt marsh, the Long Island Sound, and an Audubon Wilderness Preserve. One of few schools with a dedicated science lab for its elementary-school students, GFA provides hands-on environmental science instruction starting at the youngest age level, and it continues throughout all divisions. Arts, athletics, and academics make up the students’ day, along with a growing roster of elective courses, independent studies, off-campus learning experiences, and other special projects. Added bonus: Almost 100 students of all ages arrive every day by Metro-North train; the station is a two-minute walk from campus.
Greenwich Academy, Greenwich, CT,
Enrollment: 790, Pre-K - 12, greenwichacademy.org
Founded in 1827, Greenwich Academy is the sixth-oldest girls’ school in the country, and one dedicated to building character in girls and young women. The school is single-sex through middle school; after eighth grade, most classes are coed with the all-boys Brunswick School. Though rooted in tradition, the academy is still a leader in innovative curriculum and technology. “We chose GA because we felt strongly about single-sex education as a tool for building self-esteem and confidence,” explains one parent. Students praise the arts (dance, drama, music) and athletics programs. Added bonus: The middle school has a learning lab for students to explore environmental stewardship.
Greenwich Country Day School, Greenwich, CT
Enrollment: 840, Pre-K - 9, gcds.net
Greenwich Country Day School, set on 80 acres in the heart of Greenwich, serves 840 children in Pre-K through grade 9. The school strives to enable all children in its care to discover and develop strong academic skills as well as public speaking skills, character, values, creativity, and sportsmanship. In addition to classroom space, facilities include art studios, a wood shop, a print shop, auditoriums, libraries, gymnasiums, athletic fields, and new tennis courts. Added bonus: A community-service program designed to foster a “habit of the heart” through exposure to and involvement in a wide variety of service opportunities.
The Gunnery School, Washington, CT
Enrollment: 287, 9 - 12, gunnery.org
The Gunnery’s 220-acre campus is tucked away in the historic town of Washington in the rolling hills of western Connecticut. Founded in 1850 as a coeducational boarding and day school, its mission has remained largely the same since then: to develop strength of character, a lifelong love of learning, and a sense of social and intellectual responsibility in its students. Parents take comfort in knowing the faculty team is dedicated to the student population’s academic and social growth. The Gunnery is a place where strong character values are honored and practiced, and where the lessons of living together in a close-knit community are just as important as those learned in the classroom. The liberal-arts curriculum offers both breadth and depth within each subject offered. Added bonus: The students benefit from Lake Waramaug, Steep Rock Land Preserve, and a “green” classroom.
Hackley School, Tarrytown, CT
Enrollment: 835, K - 12, hackleyschool.org
The 111-year-old Hackley School is a coed, non-denominational day school with a five-day boarding option. Parents believe that the school’s motto, “United, we help one another,” permeates all that happens on campus, from the classroom to the athletic field to the stage. Hackley is known for setting high standards for students in both effort and discipline, but parents also rave about the nurturing atmosphere in which close to 850 students in grades K through 12 are supported and challenged as individual learners. Hackley fields a multitude of interscholastic athletic teams and offers one of the most extensive music programs available locally in an independent school. Added bonus: An internship program in which Hackley alumni provide mentoring and work experiences.
Hamden Hall, Hamden, CT
Enrollment: 565, Pre-K - 12, hamdenhall.org
Since its opening in 1912, Hamden Hall has served as a coeducational day school for students in grades pre-K through 12. With an average class size of 13, it encourages active participation, providing a supportive environment that also stresses the importance of social responsibility and community service. Stemming from the school’s philosophy of “a sound mind in a sound body for each student,” AP courses are available in every department, and participation in at least two seasons of athletics is mandatory. Added bonus: Students interested in writing will be enticed by Hamden Hall’s literary magazine, newspaper, and yearbook.
The Harvey School, Katonah, NY
Enrollment: 342, 6 - 12, harveyschool.org
Nestled among the trees on its 100-acre hilltop campus, Harvey has become a popular choice for families who see the school fulfilling its mission—helping students of varying abilities to maximize their potential—on a daily basis. A rich, stimulating academic program begins at the middle-school level, when students are taught to apply study strategies in their daily work. This prepares them for the rigors of an upper- school, college-prep curriculum that includes AP courses and electives such as Genetics and Forensics, Constitutional Law, and Poetry of the Sixties. Students participate in an interscholastic athletic program whose operative philosophy is “if you practice, you play.” Added bonus: A private, indoor ice rink.
Holy Cross High School, Waterbury, CT
Enrollment: 800, 9-12, holycrosshs-ct.com
Holy Cross High School is a co-ed, Catholic institution providing a total Christian education for young men and women. Holy Cross prepares students for college placement and a successful professional life while stimulating intellectual growth. The Principal, in conjunction with the Guidance Department, takes an active role in recommending courses for students based on their educational background, ability, needs and maturity. The curriculum is structured so that the interests and abilities of the students are fully recognized. The core academic classes include English, Social Studies, Mathematics, Science, Foreign Languages and Theology, with a rich selection of elective classes to further a student’s education. The Post University High School Scholar Program allows qualified juniors and seniors to take college courses on Post University's nearby campus. Added bonus: Upon graduation, over ninety-seven percent of Holy Cross students enroll in a college or university to further their education.
Hopkins School, New Haven, CT
Enrollment: 650, 7 - 12, hopkins.edu
Hopkins School is an independent, coeducational, college-prep day school, where classes are small and students are exposed to a wide variety of subject matter. Students are challenged to try on the habits of mind that historians, writers, linguists, scientists, artists, and athletes bring to their disciplines. Added bonus: Fun clubs such as the Grill Club in which students explore different ingredients week by week.
The Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, CT
Enrollment: 595, 9 - Post-grad, hotchkiss.org
The Hotchkiss School, an independent boarding and day school located on 827 acres in Lakeville, provides a top-notch education to its nearly 600 high-school students. The school strives to develop a lifelong love of learning, responsible citizenship, and personal integrity. Hotchkiss is committed to mastery of learning skills, development of intellectual curiosity, excellence and creativity in all disciplines, and enthusiastic participation in athletics and other school activities. All members of the community, in and out of the classroom, are expected to subject their views and actions to critical examination and to accept responsibility for them. Added bonus: Alumni periodically donate trips for students and faculty. Most recently 85 students and 15 faculty members traveled with a trip donor to Antarctica, providing a compelling opportunity to explore one of the world’s most critically important ecosystems.
Indian Mountain School, Lakeville, CT
Enrollment: 256, Pre-K - 9, indianmountain.org
Indian Mountain School offers an independent, coeducational day and boarding program located on two distinct campuses, one for upper-level students and one for lower. At both levels, moral growth and personal academic excellence are promoted in a setting that fosters a respect for learning, the environment, and each other. Students are guided and challenged through balanced elementary-and middle-school scholastic, athletic, and arts curricula, combining instruction and coaching with a system of personal support. Small classes of ten to 12 allow students to receive the individual attention they need. Added bonus: Adventure Education is an exhilarating and dynamic part of the school experience that takes advantage of the natural resources and beauty of the 600-acre campus. Competition is de-emphasized and problem-solving encouraged to build confidence, leadership, and goal-setting.
Kent School, Kent, CT
Enrollment: 565, 9 - 12, kent-school.edu
Kent School, an independent coeducational boarding and day school for grades 9 through 12, sits on an idyllic hillside between the Appalachian Trail and the Housatonic River. The strong college-preparatory curriculum provides a classic liberal-arts education in a technology-rich environment. The academic program isn’t only rigorous, it’s also interesting, with options like Irish drama, Mandarin Chinese, genetics, biotechnology, and Genocide in the 20th Century. The arts flourish here, with strong programs in the visual arts, drama, and music. Kent also has a vigorous and successful athletic program and a diverse mix of clubs, activities, and leadership opportunities. Added bonus: Since the founding of the school in 1906, it’s been a tradition for every Kent student to have a job. Some lead tours of the school for prospective families, others help fix computers, or clean up the common rooms. Through their jobs, students learn about dependability, teamwork, and self-reliance and eventually start to see that a community needs everybody to contribute.
King Low Heywood Thomas, Stamford, CT
Enrollment: 650, Pre-K - 12, klht.org
King Low Heywood Thomas is a coeducational Pre-K through grade 12 college-preparatory school of over 650 students. The faculty endeavors to get to know all students well by taking the time to learn about their individual strengths, talents, interests, and goals for the future. The school as a whole then works together with students and families to leverage a student’s strengths, creating ample opportunity for him or her to meet and exceed goals in a variety of areas, including academics, the arts, athletics, and service to the community. Added bonus: KLHT believes in the importance of educating students to become engaged global citizens, and thus incorporates cultural experiences into the curriculum at every level.
Lauralton Hall, Milford, CT
Enrollment: 435, 9 - 12, all girls, lauraltonhall.org
The Academy of Our Lady of Mercy, Lauralton Hall, a Catholic, independent, college-prep day school, prepares girls to become competent, confident, and compassionate women. Students are encouraged to become 21st-century renaissance women—women who, through academic, physical, and social challenges, are adept, strong, and well rounded. Added bonus: Fun extracurricular activities like ballroom dancing, Amnesty International, a Jane Austen Club, and Project Runway.
Litchfield Montessori School, Northfield, CT
Enrollment: 100, Pre-K – 6, litchfieldmontessori.org
Since 1972, Litchfield Montessori has prepared children, ages 15 months to 12 years, for lives filled with a love of learning, independence, curiosity, and joy by providing a quality education deeply rooted in the Montessori tradition. The program, taking a classic Montessori approach to education, promotes essential core values of integrity, responsibility, and respect and does so through the wonder of direct exploration, the satisfaction of engaged learning with didactic materials, and the integration of multi-age classrooms. LMS infuses academic studies with Spanish, Latin, fine arts, drama, physical education, music, classic literature, and peace curricula to form an exceptional “whole” program. Each member of the gifted team of certified Montessori teachers has been with the school for an average of 15 years. Added bonus: LMS has remained small enough to know its students and their individual learning styles, giving the school the advantage of providing individual teaching and attention.
The Long Ridge School, Stamford
Enrollment: 125, Pre-K - 5, longridgeschool.org
The Long Ridge School is home to 125 students, from two-year-olds to fifth graders. The 14-acre campus is a natural laboratory for the study of biology, botany, and ecology and is home to the school’s sun-filled academic buildings, the new arts and athletics center, as well as structured playgrounds and natural, outdoor play areas. Added bonus: An organic garden serves as science lab and produce stand.
Loomis Chaffee, Windsor, CT
Enrollment: 690, 9 - 12, loomis.org
Loomis Chaffee is a four-year, coeducational boarding and day school located on a 300-acre campus in Windsor. Founded in 1874, this academically challenging school promotes active learning and close faculty-student bonds within a respectful and civil community. The student body comprises approximately 690 students from 20 countries and 26 states. Perched at the confluence of two rivers, Loomis Chaffee has a dual mission: to inspire in its students a commitment to both “the best self and the common good.” Added bonus: The Student-Faculty Work Program, in which students and teachers dedicate one to two hours each week to helping maintain the school. Assignments often change from term to term to expose everyone to the workings of different departments of the school.
Maplebrook School, Amenia, NY
Enrollment: 74, 6 - 12, maplebrookschool.org
Founded in 1945 by parents seeking better education opportunities for their children, Maplebrook has grown into a prominent coed boarding and day school for students with learning differences and/or attention deficit disorder (ADD). Maplebrook is a school devoted to the growth and guidance of the character of each of its students, and though students are diverse, they share a common goal—to overcome their difficulties. Added bonus: Maplebrook recognizes that youngsters who experience ongoing difficulty in learning often develop a chronic problem of poor self-concept, so the Responsibility Increases Self Esteem (RISE) program works to change that.
The Marvelwood School, Kent, CT
Enrollment: 167, 9 - 12, marvelwood.org
The Marvelwood School paves a pathway to personal growth and academic success for each student. Faculty commitment to students not only creates a strong family atmosphere but also an environment that nurtures and supports the students to reach their full potential. Though Marvelwood does have a variety of honors and advanced-placement courses, it is known for its unique support programs that reflect its longstanding dedication to the individual. Added bonus: On Wednesdays, all Marvelwood students and faculty participate in the on- and off-campus community-service program.
The Masters School, Dobbs Ferry, NY
Enrollment: 580, 5 - 12, mastersny.org
The Masters School, a coeducational day and boarding school for 580 students in grades five through 12, is located on a majestic 76-acre campus overlooking the Hudson River. In fifth grade, students join this highly interactive learning environment, and then in grades six through eight, all academic subjects are taught in single-gender classrooms. Middle-school teachers form close, positive relationships with their students and challenge them to build vital reading, writing, and computational skills. Starting in grade nine at the upper school, students experience the intellectually challenging Harkness discussion–based curriculum that encourages critical, creative, and independent thinking. An alumnus attested to the open quality of the school: “I would say the best part about Masters is the diverse groups of people with many talents. It’s the one place you can find a star basketball player who’s also a graceful ballerina or a student graduating magna cum laude who has his own rap group that performs all over Manhattan. It’s a place where you can belong to more than one group and feel comfortable doing so because everyone encourages it.” Added bonus: A diverse community from 16 states and 16 countries.
The Mead School, Stamford, CT
Enrollment: 143, Pre-K - 8, meadschool.org
The Mead School offers an intimate setting in which traditional academics combine with hands-on learning. Children are nurtured as lifelong learners and contributors to society, with the ultimate goal of enabling graduates to create meaningful lives. Parents value the school’s experiential learning approach and the fact that teachers welcome student input. Added bonus: Multi-page report cards provide anecdotal information that sheds light on how each student learns.
The Melrose School, Brewster, NY
Enrollment: 100, Pre-K - 8, melrose.edu
Located on 22 wooded acres, the Melrose School is a coeducational day school that offers a challenging academic program to 100 bright and motivated students. Dedicated to developing the full potential of each one, the school offers small class size, talented faculty, and community-service opportunities. At Melrose, excellence begins with high expectations and is achieved through active collaboration among students, family, faculty, and staff. Families of all faiths and backgrounds are welcomed in an inclusive culture. Added bonus: A variety of extracurricular activities including band, choir, drama, student council, soccer, volleyball, and basketball helps students build teamwork, self-confidence, leadership, and physical skills.
Millbrook School, Millbrook, NY
Enrollment: 264, 9 - 12, millbrook.org
A small, coeducational, college-prep boarding school where nurturing and stimulating relationships between students and teachers have been the school’s hallmark since its founding. The curriculum integrates academics, service, athletics, arts, and leadership. They are encouraged to explore their talents and interests and to contribute to the well-being of others. Added bonus: Environmental stewardship is taken seriously, with learning opportunities offered at its very own Trevor Zoo—the only zoo in the country located at a high school.
Miss Porter’s School, Farmington, CT
Enrollment: 322, 9 - 12, all girls, porters.org
Miss Porter’s School, a boarding and day community of 322 girls, prides itself on preparing young women for college, leadership, and life. Students are challenged to become informed, bold, resourceful, and ethical global citizens, for as graduates, they are expected to shape a changing world. Porter’s is for smart, strong, and creative girls who want to become young women that are prepared to lead with conviction and courage in whatever situations they find themselves. Added bonus: The stunning 3,500-square-foot Gaines dance barn, and the highly regarded dance program housed there, ranks among the best for secondary schools. Novice to pre-professional–level dance classes are offered.
The Montessori School, Wilton, CT (lower) and Norwalk, CT (upper)
Enrollment: 250, Pre-K – 6, themontessorischool.com
The Montessori School educates 250 students on two campuses. Children, ages 15 months through 11 years, spend their days on the Wilton campus in multi-age classrooms and learn according to Montessori methods. Academics at the middle-school program in Norwalk also apply these methods, and even have one day a week focused on outdoor expeditions and collective stewardship. True to Maria Montessori’s vision for the middle-school student, this program instills an environmental ethic that includes respect and reverence for the natural world. The Montessori School’s commitment to inspiring and rigorous academics is linked with the highest tenets of ethical grounding, personal accountability, and moral responsibility to others and to self. The school’s mission embraces the deepening of character and consciousness right along with all academic disciplines. Added bonus: A drama program that celebrates the development of confidence.
The Montfort Academy, Katonah, NY
Enrollment: 70, 9 - 12, themontfortacademy.org
The Montfort Academy in Katonah is a young school, yet its curriculum is steeped in history. Parents who are looking for a return to classical education are compelled to consider this newcomer based on its distinguished faculty and curriculum. A typical day would find Montfort’s vivacious and curious students quoting Socrates and studying subjects including Latin, Greek, Italian, astronomy, grammar, civics, rhetoric, philosophy, and religion. Though originally founded as a Catholic high school for boys, the academy now welcomes girls into its growing student body and offers a multitude of extracurricular opportunities for all students. Added bonus: A summer-study program in Italy helps bring classroom academics to life.
New Canaan Country School, New Canaan, CT
Enrollment: 614, Pre-K - 9, countryschool.net
The rambling 75-acre campus, low-student teacher ratio, and academic-excellence awards that have been bestowed on New Canaan Country School are just a few of its many draws. For 94 years the school, located just west of the village of New Canaan, has been teaching students from pre-K to 9th grade, and the high-quality faculty pays close attention not only to academics but also to character development and social responsibility. A local mother, when choosing a school for her child, was attracted to the non-traditional, nurturing, and comfortably homey approach to education at NCCS (a golden retriever can often be found curled up in the corner of a classroom). Parents tend to be quite involved here, and contribute to the fact that this is no stand-offish, elitist day school; its progressive approach uses experiential learning, encouraging students to think outside the box, ask questions, and assume leadership responsibilities as they grow. Added bonus: A low-ropes course, a 35-acre nature preserve, and a winter ice-skating program.
Notre Dame Catholic High School, Fairfield, CT
Enrollment: 573, 9 - 12, notredame.org
Notre Dame Catholic High School is a coeducational, diocesan high school that provides a top-quality college-preparatory education. The school serves a student body of diverse cultures, faith traditions, and abilities, and ultimately prides itself on a Christian family atmosphere that provides a caring and supportive learning environment for every student. The academic program seeks to train each student to think independently, read critically, and communicate clearly in an ever-changing and technologically complex society. The spiritual program aims to cultivate an appreciation for worship and commitment to service. Extracurricular and athletic programs are designed to develop not only talents and social skills, but also a sense of community and fair play. Added bonus: After-school activities range from the entertaining and light-hearted, such as Comic Book Club, to the inspired, like the Global Education, Awareness, and Action Club, which works for the release of prisoners of conscience.
Oakwood Friends School, Poughkeepsie, NY
Enrollment: 180, 6 - 12, oakwoodfriends.org
Devoted since its inception to the fundamental Quaker belief that “there is that of God in every person,” Oakwood Friends, a boarding and day school, puts this belief into practice by focusing on the individual learner and cultivating a diversified community in an atmosphere of mutual respect and enrichment. Traditional academic coursework plus computer literacy, the arts, physical education, and community service are all required.
Ridgefield Academy, Ridgefield, CT
Enrollment: 750, Pre-K - 8, ridgefieldacademy.com
Parents choose Ridgefield Academy, and its affiliated Landmark Academy pre-schools (in Westport and Redding), for three main reasons: a school culture immersed in strong values, a comprehensive academic program, and the close partnership that both students and parents share with teachers. The curriculum is based on developing confidence in a low-stress environment where children can freely take risks. Small class size and differentiated instruction make certain each child is encouraged. Added bonus: A unique blend of high academic standards and a strong culture of kindness.
Rippowam Cisqua School, Mount Kisco, NY (lower) and Bedford, NY (upper)
Enrollment: 504, Pre-K - 9, rcsny.org
Rippowam Cisqua, on two campuses, has one mission: to promote critical thinking, individual development, and personal excellence. Parents are drawn to RCS because of the small class sizes, supportive learning environment, and dedicated teachers who “truly enjoy children.” One parent says, “Learning is a priority here, and it is made enjoyable in order to encourage a lifelong love of learning.” Community service is emphasized through ongoing school-wide service projects at all age levels and personal community-service efforts that become part of grade-nine “capstone year” portfolios. Added bonus: Foreign language and sciences begin in kindergarten.
Ross School, Bridgehampton, NY (lower) and East Hampton, NY (upper)
Enrollment: 220, Pre-K - 12, ross.org
Ross School inspires students to remember the past in order to better understand the present and change the future. Throughout the upper and lower schools, students are known to address local and global problems in order to fulfill their motto: “Know thyself in order to serve.” Students here receive an education that contributes to lifelong learning. Added bonus: M-term is an opportunity for students and teachers to work intensively on group and individual projects during the three weeks between winter and spring terms.
Rumsey Hall School, Washington Depot, CT
Enrollment: 305, K - 9, rumseyhall.org
Rumsey Hall, an independent boarding and day school, prepares students for the discipline required in secondary schools, through small coed classes, a tightly knit dorm life, a range of sports, and sound academics. The school, set on a beautiful 147-acre campus, serves 305 students in grades K through 9, and promotes the idea in every student that effort is the main criterion for success. Faculty and staff are dedicated to helping each child develop as an educated person and a contributing member of both family and community. Sports, music, and theater are available to every student. Added bonus: Rumsey Outdoor Adventure offers fun wilderness trips and activities that create opportunities for students to learn leadership skills.
Salisbury School, Salisbury, CT
Enrollment: 296, 9 - 12, salisburyschool.org
The boy who makes the decision to attend Salisbury, a 296-student boarding and day school located in the Berkshire foothills, often does so for the camaraderie and kinship of an all-boys school, as well as the high-quality academic program and accompanying leadership opportunities. Boys are provided with an educational environment that is focused on core values and high standards, and a social environment that is short on pretense and posturing. Because Salisbury was founded specifically for boys, the school knows and understands young men and makes their specific needs its primary focus. The school has a rich tradition of athletic competition, and whether a Salisbury boy has played football for years or is just learning the basics of tennis, he is part of the Crimson Knight tradition. The art department encourages students to explore all of their talents. Added bonus: The Entrepreneurial Studies Program combines an academic curriculum with hands-on experience of creating and managing a student-run business.
Seton Academy, Westport, CT
Enrollment: 8, 6 - 12, setonacademyschool.org
Seton Academy serves the needs of young adults with emotional, psychological or behavioral struggles who have been unsuccessful in previous school settings. With educational and therapeutic support tailored to the individual student, Seton is able to identify the necessary treatments and counseling needed to achieve personal goals. Applicants are assisted with appropriate social behavior and peer interactions. With the professional help of a clinical staff, students’ past school placements are evaluated to develop a program that best addresses past failures and prevent them from recurring. After a sustained success has been achieved, Seton Academy helps students make a smooth transition into a community-school setting in accordance with their academic, social and emotional needs. If this is not possible, students may remain at Seton through graduation as they continue to reach their goals. Added bonus: Guidance expands beyond the borders of the school; Seton helps connects families with outside support services for continual progress.
Soundview Prep School, Yorktown Heights, NY
Enrollment: 80, 6 - 12, soundviewprep.org
Soundview Prep was founded 20 years ago by a group of families seeking an intimate and non-competitive environment where their teenagers could pursue a rigorous college-preparatory education. Now serving students of middle- and high-school age, the rustic 14-acre campus with a Victorian house, pond, woods, and fields provides a backdrop for promoting respect, ethical values, and a sense of community. Soundview bills itself as a “place that changes lives.” Parents and students agree. “The culture at Soundview is like none I’ve encountered—one of support and independence, of respect and informality, of personal attention, and academic challenge,” says one parent. Alongside the comprehensive academic curriculum, activities and athletics include soccer, basketball, yearbook, newspaper, literary magazine, drama, and an outdoors club. Added bonus: With class size averaging seven, there’s no danger that any student will fall between the cracks.
South Kent School, South Kent, CT
Enrollment: 154, 9 - 12, all boys, southkentschool.org
South Kent School, established in 1923 as a college-preparatory school for boys, provides its students with the intellectual, moral, physical, and social framework for scholastic achievement in college and productive citizenship in adult society. Three principles have defined the school since its founding: simplicity of life, self-reliance, and directness of purpose. South Kent School fosters these principles in a community—small in number, with only 154 students—that provides a safe and supportive family structure. Rigorous academics here are balanced by athletics, a strong arts program, extracurricular activities, and community service. Added bonus: The Advanced Media Group, a student-led club that directs and produces live webcasts of school events.
St. Aloysius Regional Catholic School, New Canaan, CT
Enrollment: 192, K – 8, starcc.com/school
St. Aloysius Regional Catholic School, a coeducational K-8 school, uses the Catholic faith as the foundation upon which the entire curriculum rests. According to its mission statement, the school “aims to stimulate the spiritual, physical, intellectual, and emotional development of each student in an environment permeated by Christian attitudes and values.” The small school has one class per grade and provides a comprehensive curriculum that includes language arts, literature, social studies, history, Latin, Spanish, math, science, and health. Added bonus: Tuition is affordable—less than $7,000 per year.
St. Joseph High School, Trumbull, CT,
Enrollment: 810, 9 - 12, sjhs.pvt.k12.ct.us
St. Joseph High School is a four-year, coed, college-prep school established in 1962 by the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Bridgeport. St. Joe’s helps students realize their potential and excel in higher education. On the 25-acre campus, students have the chance to participate in 24 varsity-level athletic teams and 42 student clubs and organizations. Fine-arts electives range from concert band, chamber singers, and music theory to sculpture, painting, and art history. Added bonus: Every year each class travels for a few days of fun and learning to locations such as Boston, Washington, or Quebec.
St. Luke’s School, New Canaan, CT,
Enrollment: 504, 5 - 12, stlukesct.org
A “vibrant and dynamic learning community” is how parents and students describe St. Luke’s School. Situated on a 40-acre campus in New Canaan, the school offers a college-prep curriculum for its diverse student body, which draws from over 25 towns in Connecticut and New York. St. Luke’s motto, “Enter to learn, go forth to serve,” imbues students with a commitment to academic excellence and service to the community. Parents’ praise for the school’s academics and extracurriculars describes how it “provides students with real-world experience and leadership opportunities.” One recent alumna said her favorite thing about St. Luke’s was the required community service. Added bonus: St. Luke’s is on the forefront of global education. From international exchange programs to Mandarin Chinese classes, a global perspective is incorporated.
St. Mary School, Ridgefield, CT
Enrollment: 287, Pre-K - 8, smsridgefield.org
St. Mary School educates children in Pre-K through eighth grade, and is a popular school of choice for Catholic parents who want their children to grow in their faith. Students attend religious services and mass on specific days, and a lunchtime rosary is recited over the loudspeakers. For non-Catholic students, religion is taught as an academic subject and though it is not necessary to believe, it is encouraged to respect the faith. The school boasts academic excellence, a committed faculty with a low student-teacher ratio (helped by aides and administrators who teach), a computer lab, and wireless laptops for students. With state-of-the-art curricula, writing and math are essential skills that feed the essence of an integrated curriculum. Music, art, and physical education are regular parts of the students’ schedule as well. Added bonus: Foreign language instruction begins in kindergarten.
St. Patrick’s School, Bedford, NY,
Enrollment: 148, Pre-K - 8, stpatrickschoolbedford.wordpress.com
Located a mere hop, skip, and a jump from the Village Green in Bedford, St. Patrick’s offers a pre-K through 8, coeducational, Catholic-school option. Parents are attracted to the “family atmosphere,” the concern for and service to the needy, and also the academic program that prepares students to succeed in public, private, or parochial high schools. “I was especially drawn to the St. Pat’s values-based programming that reflects the same values I teach at home,” says one parent. Moreover, the faculty strives to help every student reach individual goals, and will work directly with local-district staff to aid those students who demonstrate learning differences or special needs. Added bonus: Religion is incorporated as part of daily life, not just “scheduled” as a once- or twice-a-week activity.
The Storm King School, Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY
Enrollment: 140, 9 - 12, sks.org
Both students and faculty at the Storm King School recognize the importance of embracing risks, challenges, and debates, as it is these moments that promote growth. In an inspirational environment that encourages stepping outside the comfort zone, the school motivates its students to become lifelong learners and risk-takers. In addition to academics, Storm King addresses the importance of art, theater, music, and athletics in developing a well-rounded student. Added bonus: The Mountain Center Program is available for college-bound students diagnosed with learning challenges.
The Taft School, Watertown, CT
Enrollment: 577, 9 - Post-grad, taftschool.org
Founded in 1890, The Taft School is a coeducational boarding and day school for 577 students in grades nine through post-graduate. The 220-acre campus features facilities that rival those of many small colleges. Taft’s curriculum begins with foundation courses, and then broadens into a diverse number of options, including honors and AP courses in every discipline. Arts courses are central to the school’s objective of educating the whole person. In building one of the most successful athletic programs in New England, Taft coaches promote sportsmanship, a love of the game, competitive spirit, and team loyalty. Added bonus: The school’s Moorhead Academic Center is available to improve learning, provide support to teachers, students, and parents, and to make available the latest in scientific research on learning and the brain.
The Unquowa School, Fairfield, CT
Enrollment: 190, Pre-K - 8, unquowa.org
The Unquowa School is an independent day school which has offered a traditional liberal arts curriculum with a progressive approach to families of both boys and girls from PreK3 through eighth grade since its inception in 1917. Both class and school size are kept small to insure individual attention and to maintain a close community of children, faculty and parents. The school-wide environmental program includes habitat preservation and a sustainable nutrition component. Fine arts and foreign language begin in early childhood, physical education occurs daily in each grade and Upper Schoolers participate in sports through the Fairchester Athletic League. High school placement service begins in late seventh grade for both day and boarding high schools. Whether students elect to attend independent or public high school, they find themselves well prepared academically, athletically and socially.
Villa Maria School, Stamford, CT
Enrollment: 84, K - 9, villamariaedu.org
Villa Maria provides a “place to succeed” for almost 100 kindergarten through ninth-grade students with learning differences. Parents are attracted to the small classes in which learning needs are continuously attended to and the flexibility of the curriculum allows for individual strengths to flourish and weaknesses to be improved. Students are taught to advocate for themselves so that they can still get their learning needs met when they return to a mainstream school. Parents say optimism is palpable, the superb faculty is dedicated, best behavior is expected, and good citizenship is recognized. Added bonus: The school is exclusively for students with learning differences, so there is no separation from the main student body, hence, no stigma.
Washington Montessori School, New Preston, CT
Enrollment: 280, Pre-K - 8, washingtonmontessori.org
Offers toddlers through 8th-graders a place to develop self-reliance and confidence. The five elements that distinguish the WMS learning experience are personalized education, challenging academics, character development, collaborative community, and dedicated teachers. Added bonus: Each fall, middle-school students spend a week at a wilderness facility where they participate in team-building exercises.
Westover School, Middlebury, CT
Enrollment: 200, 9 -12, all girls, westoverschool.org
In this all-girls school, students are able to excel in a competitive and cooperative atmosphere as well as develop friendships that will last a lifetime. Westover fosters independent thinking, while encouraging commitment to community. With a new Performing Arts Center that houses three professional dance studios, Westover promotes art, music, theatre and dance.
Whitby School, Greenwich, CT
Enrollment: 385, Pre-K - 8, whitbyschool.org
Teachers use a combination of Montessori and International Baccalaureate (IB) teaching methodologies to give each student the tools necessary to “learn, live, and succeed.” With a 6:1 student-teacher ratio and a rigorous academic curriculum, every child’s natural curiosity is promoted and developed. Whitby prides itself on cultural, economic, and intellectual diversity, and takes eighth-graders on a trip overseas. Added bonus: Whitby is the only triple-accredited school in state (with Montessori, IB, and CT Independent School).
Williston Northampton School, Easthampton, MA
Enrollment: 460, 7 - 12, williston.com
Close to the Five College Consortium of Massachusetts’s Pioneer Valley, makes it ideal for a strong college-prep experience. Beyond academics and athletics, they perform in plays, work on the school paper, and rock climb. Added bonus: Six lofty studios for painting and drawing, a state-of-the-art theater, a photography lab, gallery, and more.
The Woodhall School, Bethlehem, CT
Enrollment: 42, 9 - 12, all boys, woodhallschool.org
The Woodhall School is a unique and intimate traditional boarding school that, like its students, defies categorization. Situated on a 38-acre rural campus, Woodhall offers an opportunity to experience success for young men of above-average intellectual ability in grades nine through 12 who have had difficulties in traditional school environments. The school offers an individualized program that gives each student an opportunity to change a pattern of failure into one of success. At Woodhall, teachers and students dispense with labels, believing that 99 percent of learning happens outside the classroom. Teachers and students work toward developing greater self-reflection, self-expression, and accountability for everyone in the community. An athletics program in which all students participate fosters physical fitness, sportsmanship, and teamwork. Added bonus: The communications program gives students the opportunity to learn how to express themselves in an open, caring, and honest manner and to learn how to confront themselves and others with respect, integrity, and accountability.
Wooster School, Danbury, CT
Enrollment: 343, K - 12, woosterschool.org
For more than 80 years, this coeducational day school on 150 acres has aimed to instill a sense of community, self-help, and service. Founded as Episcopalian, weekly chapel services are now interfaith and embrace a sense of laughter. Parents endorse Wooster for the upper-school writing program and self-help program in which students take responsibility for school upkeep. A senior independent-study program and interesting upper-school electives such as Arabic, psychology, history of rock and roll attract students from throughout all of Connecticut and northern Westchester. Added bonus: An outdoor swimming pool—how cool is that on a hot day?