What is an Independent School?

What is an Independent School?

An independent school is typically a nonprofit primary or secondary school that doesn’t receive public funding from the government.

Independent schools are primarily funded by tuition, donations, and endowments. This private revenue gives schools the ability to provide exceptional facilities and student programs. Independent school budgets are typically managed by administrative leadership and supervised by an elected board of trustees.

What is the Difference Between a Private School and an Independent School?

Unlike public schools which are funded through a combination of local, state, and federal dollars, a private school is any school that does not receive state funding. All independent schools fall under the broader “private school” category, although not all private schools are “independent.”

  • Independent schools are nonprofit institutions specifically governed by an independent board of trustees. Independent schools typically can be more flexible and unique in terms of their mission, but often follow stricter guidelines for governance.
  • Private schools that are not considered independent schools are most often governed by religious organizations, for-profit corporations, or larger entities. They may therefore adhere to governance structures that are influenced and managed by larger or more expansive umbrella organizations/companies.

What are the Advantages of an Independent School?

Due to their independent governance, independent schools have the flexibility to create curriculum that best aligns with the organization’s mission and/or educational goals. Independent schools will most often adhere to state educational guidelines and standards, but will follow an educational approach that meets their core mission. This may include a focus on project based learning, differentiating instruction, or including social justice and civic engagement as a core tenet. Independent schools may also utilize assessment tools that measure student understanding in a way that is centered on the child – keeping students in a proximal zone of learning as much as possible.

Most independent schools offer smaller class sizes that maximize student interaction with teachers and build a nurturing learning environment. The smaller nature of most independent schools also provides the opportunity for consciously building inclusive, diverse student and family communities that encourage active participation and engagement.

Park Day School is proud to be considered one of the best private and independent schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn about the benefits of our progressive education model.