Q What is an "independent" school?
A An independent school has the freedom to serve its mission—its unique philosophy, values and approach to education. Commonly referred to as private schools, independent schools receive no funding from federal, state or local governments. Therefore, they are not required to implement the high-stakes testing programs that are currently in place in our public schools. There are approximately 2,000 independent schools in the country, and the strongest of these are members of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). Fredericksburg Academy is the only NAIS-member school in our region. The best independent schools are also regularly accredited. In order to be recognized as an accredited school by the Virginia Board of Education, independent schools in our state must undergo a rigorous review process. Fredericksburg Academy is accredited by the Virginia Association of Independent Schools, which is recognized as a valid accrediting agency by the state.
Q Why would a parent send his or her child to an independent school in an area that has strong public schools?
A Parents throughout our country—in areas with excellent and struggling public schools—choose independent schools for a variety of reasons: small class sizes, higher academic standards, expert teachers, individualized college preparation and safety, just to name a few. However, I feel that the best argument for sending a child to an independent school like FA is that our curriculum teaches students how to think. Independent school students are surrounded by peers and teachers who inspire and encourage their intellectual curiosity, leading them to make important connections and uncover new understandings. This provides students with a major advantage by preparing them much more effectively for collegiate and professional success than the test-driven curriculum of the public school system.
Q How will I know if the independent school learning environment is right for my child?
A The best way to get a feel for whether a school is the right fit for your child is to visit in person during a regular school day. All independent schools have admission officers whose job is to welcome families who are looking at the school, show them around and answer their questions. When you visit, observe how teachers and students interact in classrooms, hallways and the lunchroom while picturing your child among them. If you feel that he or she would thrive in the school, take the next step and apply for admission. During the admission process, the child will visit the school for a day or part of a day, giving everyone the opportunity to determine if it's the right fit.
QMost independent schools tout college preparation, but how do they prepare students for life beyond college?
A This is such an important question. Preparing students for collegiate success is not enough; we must also prepare them to be effective professionals and contributing members of their communities. Business leaders and researchers have indicated in a recent report by NAIS that they are finding fewer and fewer graduates who have the appropriate skill set for today's evolving workplaces. As I read through the desired skills and traits, I was pleased to see so many areas that the Fredericksburg Academy curriculum prioritizes. The five skills and traits identified as most important by employers were: oral communication skills, teamwork and collaboration, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, written communication skills and a strong work ethic. These five learning priorities are emphasized throughout all levels of independent schools. Through interviews and surveys, our alumni report that they feel that their FA experience contributed greatly to the development of these skills and provided the foundation for success in college and careers. The NAIS report shows that independent schools are outperforming public schools in this area by a significant margin.
QWhat about diversity? Are children exposed to enough diversity in independent schools?
A Diversity takes so many different forms—ethnic, religious, ideological, etc.—and it is imperative for children to be surrounded by a diverse range of peers in order to receive a full education. People of color represent about 26 percent of independent school students nationwide, and Fredericksburg Academy's student body has 32 percent students of color. We teach our students to seek out and respect ideas, perspectives and experiences that are different from their own.
QWhere can I get more information, advice, and statistics about independent education?
A A great site is parents.nais.org. This is the parents' section of the National Association of Independent Schools' (NAIS) website. It contains four sections (Learn, Find, Apply and Afford) that offer advice and insight for every step of the exploration, application and enrollment process. Of course, all of us at FA would love to answer your questions as well—stop by or give us a call!
About Fredericksburg Academy:
Founded in 1992 by parents in search of the ideal school for their children, Fredericksburg Academy has become one of the state's best private schools. The school, recently recognized as a top private high school by the editors of Virginia Living, has created a dynamic, inclusive learning community that inspires students to achieve their academic and personal potential.
Educating 3-year-olds through high school seniors on its 44-acre campus, FA offers a college-preparatory education defined by small classes (7:1 student-teacher ratio), expert teachers (averaging 16 years of experience), a curriculum emphasizing critical thinking and a strong Honor Code. One hundred percent of Fredericksburg Academy's graduates have been accepted to four-year colleges and universities. The school prides itself on its commitment to diversity and inclusion.
About the Expert:
Karen Moschetto has been proud to call Fredericksburg Academy her second home and the FA community her second family for nearly two decades. Head of School since 2010 and a member of the faculty since 1996, Ms. Moschetto is a visionary leader and tireless advocate for students. She is passionate about providing an education that develops students as critical thinkers, confident leaders, collaborators, and honorable citizens. She received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Purdue University, where she played field hockey. In addition to serving as Head of School, Ms. Moschetto is head coach of the Academy's five-time state-champion Varsity Field Hockey team.