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Looking at Private Middle Schools in New York City

Middle school is a common entry point for private schooling, and options abound in New York.

Glen Justice | Thursday, February 24, 2022, at 9:32 a.m.

It may not be intuitive, but admissions experts say middle school – traditionally grades 6-8, though sometimes fifth grade too – is a popular time for many families to transition to private school.

In New York City, where competition for top high schools is tight and many private schools serve grades K-12, families often look to middle school as a path to the high school they want their children to attend.

“Middle school may seem the least logical, but I will say it’s an obvious stepping stone to high school, which is an obvious stepping stone to college,” says Tamar Lindenfeld, founder of Chalkdust Inc., which provides tutoring and educational consulting.

Education consultants say there is much to recommend private middle schools in New York City, from special programming and extracurricular activities to a peer group that may be more focused on academics. Smaller classes with more individualized instruction are also attractive in a city where public school classes can contain 30 students or more.

“[Parents] say that individualized attention is just a total game changer,” says Christopher Rim, founder and CEO of Command Education.

Whitney Shashou, founder and president of Admit NY, an educational consultancy, says middle school is a unique time for many families because educational needs become more clear.

“You have a better sense of who your kid is, what their needs are and also maybe what your needs are as a family,” she says. “You can turn to a middle school kid … and ask them, ‘what’s your favorite class? What’s a learning opportunity that you’ve done in school that you really enjoyed?’ You can start to really understand and unpack who they are as a learner.”

It is also a time when many children build the study skills that will carry on throughout their educational career. “Middle school is a very crucial time in a kid’s life, not only emotionally and hormonally and socially … but also academically,” Shashou says. “It’s a time to really build a solid foundation for them to leverage once they get into high school.”

The primary argument against private middle school is cost. A 2020 report from the New York State Association of Independent Schools found the median tuition at its member schools for grades 6 and 8 was more than $45,000. And in New York City, some elite schools charge above $55,000.

At York Prep, for example, tuition and fees in grades 6-12 is listed as $58,000 a year. At The Dalton School, it’s $55,210 a year for grades K-12.

Of course, most schools offer some type of financial aid, but qualifying can be tricky. “I think it really depends on the school,” Lindenfeld says. “When you’re talking about New York City … it’s actually very challenging.”

There are scores of private middle schools in New York City, many of which are part of K-12 schools, including some of the best-known schools in the country. But experts say education is more than a brand name.

“I really believe that there is no best school in New York City,” Shashou says. “There’s a best school for every kid. … Every kid is unique, has different needs, has a different learning profile and requires a different kind of community.”

  • The Berkeley Carroll School in Park Slope, Brooklyn, serves about 990 students in grades PK-12. Every fifth and sixth grader learns to play an instrument; 75% of middle schoolers play a sport. There are also 23 arts electives in the middle school.
  • The Brearley School is an all-girls K-12 school serving about 770 students, including about 240 in middle school. About 60% of the student body are students of color and the student-to-teacher ratio is 6-to-1.
  • Brooklyn Friends School is a Quaker school in Brooklyn serving about 660 students in grades PK-12. The school has a student-to-teacher ratio of 7 to 1 and about 39% of attendees are students of color.
  • The Browning School is an all-boys school serving about 400 students in grades K-12. The student-to-teacher ratio is 7-to-1. The school’s 62nd Street campus is “422 steps” from New York’s Central Park.
  • The Dalton School is a K-12 school serving about 1,325 students. The student-to-teacher ratio is 7-to-1. Dalton also features about 50 clubs and activities in middle school and 50 sports teams in middle school and high school.
  • Ethical Culture Fieldston School, with campuses in Manhattan and the Bronx, serves students in grades PK-12. The school, which can trace its roots to 1878, has a student-to-teacher ratio of 5 to 1.
  • HudsonWay Immersion School serves about 250 students in grades PK-8, with campuses in Manhattan and Stirling, New Jersey. The school offers immersion language education in Spanish and Mandarin.
  • Lycée Français de New York is a PK-12 school offering bilingual education in French and English. The school receives more than 150 visits from artists and authors every year.
  • Riverdale Country School is a PK-12 school serving about 1,200 students. The student body represents more than 70 nationalities. The school has a student-to-teacher ratio of 5-to-1.
  • York Prep School serves about 340 students in grades 6-12. The average class size is 12 to 15, and the student-to-teacher ratio is 4-to-1.

US World News

Originally published on U.S. News & World Report on Feb 24, 2022

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