Cincinnati Family Magazine

Your # 1 Hometown Family Resource

May 26, 2024

Private School Pointers

the arts are alive in private schools

dancinggirl.pngRobert Sternberg, Ph.D., dean of arts and sciences at Tufts University in Boston, specializes in determining what makes people successful in life. Through his research at Tufts, Sternberg determined that imagination and creativity are just as important as intelligence.

So while today’s schools place extra emphasis on test taking and grades, Sternberg’s ground-breaking research reveals that creativity is just as important for a child to be successful in life. In fact, he found that being a creative individual substantially improves a young person’s college success.

Additional research supports the importance of the arts in a student’s life; according to a recent study conducted at Harvard’s Project Zero – an educational research group – participating in a school arts program increases a child’s ability to:

  • Observe the world carefully and discard preconceptions in order to envision something and then create it
  • Go beyond just learning a skill to express a personal voice
  • Problem-solve and persist despite frustration and setbacks
  • Reflect on the results and ask what could improve them

And, in a landmark 2008 study by the non-profit Dana Foundation titled, Learning, Arts and the Brain, neuroscientists at seven universities found that:

  • Musical training improves reading by helping children distinguish the sound structure of words
  • Acting boosts memory and the ability to articulate ideas
  • Strong interest in a performing art leads to better attention and memory


Plan an Effective Visit to Your School of Choice

Do your homework before visiting schools and read about the ones you’ll be visiting. Examine their school profiles on and make note of any questions that arise about student performance, resources or teacher backgrounds.

You’ll want to ask the principal these questions when you visit each school. Talk to other parents and go to the online edition of your local newspaper to search for articles about the schools. When you visit a school, be sure to ask the principal and admissions counselors questions and observe the environment. The sample questions below can help you get started.

Key Questions to Ask:

  • Does this school have a particular educational philosophy or mission?
  • What is this school’s approach to student discipline and safety?
  • How does this school encourage and monitor students’ progress toward meeting grade-level standards?
  • What kinds of library resources are available to students?
  • How is technology used to support teaching and learning at this school?
  • How do the arts fit into the curriculum? Is there a school choir, band or orchestra? A school play? Art classes?
  • What extracurricular opportunities (sports, clubs, community service, competitions) are available for students?
  • How does this school support students who have academic, social or emotional difficulties?
  • What professional development opportunities do teachers have? In what ways do teachers collaborate?
  • What are some of the school’s greatest accomplishments? What are some of the biggest challenges this school faces?

Things to Look For:

  • Do classrooms look cheerful? Is student work displayed, and does it seem appropriate for the grade level?
  • Do teachers seem enthusiastic and knowledgeable, asking questions that stimulate students and keep them engaged?
  • Does the principal seem confident and interested in interacting with students, teachers and parents?
  • How do students behave as they move from class to class or play outside?
  • How well are the facilities maintained? Are bathrooms clean and well supplied, and do the grounds look safe and inviting?

the application process

You’ve created your wish list, attended open houses and narrowed it down to the schools you want to apply to … now what? Get these papers in order (and be prepared for a formal interview):

  • Application forms available from school Web sites or by calling admissions offices
  • Your child’s most up-to-date academic transcript, with grades, from his current school
  • Past standardized test results
  • Teacher recommendations
  • Results of any required standardized admissions tests and/or school administered entrance exams

Depending on your child’s age, you may also need:

  • parent statements
  • student writing samples

money matters

To learn more about financial matters related to private education, visit the National Association of Independent School’s School & Student Service for Financial Aid (SSS) online at

which school fits?

  • Pay close attention to the school’s mission: Make sure it matches your family values and expectations of a school’s culture.
  • Get your questions answered. Admissions counselors are available specifically to help families find the right match. Talk to them openly and honestly, inquiring about the school’s leadership and faculty, and talk to other parents whose children are enrolled.
  • Know your child: Honestly consider your child and how he responds to others. Consider the ideal learning situation for him so your can evaluate what different schools offer.
  • Get a feel for the schools: Visit the schools you are interested in learning about. Pay close attention to the learning environment, students and points of interest to your child. Listen to your instincts.

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