What is an independent school?
Independent is a key word, for an independent school is free to develop and carry out its own philosophy of education, free to choose those students it can serve best, and free to employ as teachers those it deems best fitted to instruct and to lead their students.
Independent Schools are private, not-for-profit elementary, middle and secondary schools, governed by a board of trustees. They are funded by tuition, endowment, private gifts, grants and annual giving. They range in size from under 100 students to several thousand students. They may begin instruction with nursery or pre-school and end in 8th or 9th grade or continue through high school (12th grade). Some schools provide a post-graduate or PG year for students who can benefit from an additional year in high school before transitioning to college. Most New York State independent schools end in 12th grade.
Independent schools may be single-sex or coed, operating as a day, boarding or a day school with a boarding option. They are located in rural, suburban or city centers. Most independent schools in the New York City area are located in Manhattan with a few in each of the outer boroughs. There are also schools throughout Long Island and in Westchester County and points north. Generally speaking, they are selective schools, offering high-quality education, including a vast array of athletic offerings, visual and performing arts courses, and co-curricular leadership opportunities.
The pedagogy or instructional style of an independent school varies. Some schools may be traditional, others progressive. They may follow the specific philosophy and methodologies guided by educators like John Dewey, Rudolph Steiner, Maria Montessori or Jean Piaget. They may use a combination of these theorists or may have created their own unique teaching strategies. Browsing through a school’s website and reading their mission, curricular offerings and other links will give you some insight. Talking to parents, students, teachers and graduates and visiting the schools will also confirm their teaching and learning methodology.
In all cases, independent schools have high academic expectations of its teachers and ideally attract and admit motivated students and involved parents. Class size tends to be small, varying from one-on-one independent study in the upper grades to about 24 depending on the subject, the popularity of the instructor, the frequency the course is taught and the interests of the students. Student-faculty ratios are excellent, with most teaching sections averaging 16-18 students. Academic resources are abundant with technology as a critical component in educating students in the 21st century.
From "About Independent Schools -- An Overview" by Liz Fernandez
Diversity Job Fair Administrator, New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS)