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Independent Schools: Small Communities with Big Impact

By Barbara Kraus-Blackney, Executive Director, Association of Delaware Valley Independent Schools (ADVIS)

Because small communities are one of our core values, no individual independent school will make a largest business list in the 10-county Greater Delaware Valley. However, considered collectively, the region's independent schools, with more than10,500 employees and 53,000 students, rank 10th among top employers (excluding tax-funded entities). The region's businesses and non-profits attract and retain top talent, in part, because of the wealth of educational options available. The economic impact of independent schools is significant.

But education is about the future, as is the impact of "human capital" on a region's long-term vitality. A top-notch curriculum is a given in independent schools, but it is the "value added" of small school communities, class size and student-teacher ratio, and access to extra-curricular opportunities, including community service, athletics and the fine and performing arts, that allow our schools to maximize "human capital".

Independent schools retain high-quality teachers, many with the highest degree or professional experience in their subject. Small school and class size allow disciplined, yet creative environments where teachers get to know their students and vice-versa in classes and through community service activities, clubs and sports. Students gain confidence and assume leadership roles. They are not likely to "fall through the cracks," and learn to think critically and creatively, groom their talents, and perhaps most importantly, take risks in a safe environment where the stakes are relatively low. Students learn to go after "big" ideas, though failure is possible, and the critical life lesson that failure often leads to success.

Character and civic responsibility are emphasized and integrated throughout independent school life. Participation in team sports is often required; lessons about teamwork, fairness, self-discipline and persistence are stressed over individual talent and scores. Community service is a core value, with myriad opportunities to give back to society. A recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education revealed that independent school graduates achieve healthy adult lives and outstanding lifelong commitment to community service/civic participation at a higher rate than those from other schools.

Independent schools prepare students for college and career, but also for a meaningful, fulfilling life. Investigate our schools — you will find one uniquely suited for your child to become a happy, successful life-long learner!

ADVIS supports the administration and governance of 136 member independent schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware through professional development, advocacy and collaborative marketing. More than 50,000 students attend ADVIS schools, distinct from private schools in that they are guided by mission, governed by independent boards of trustees and funded primarily by tuition, contributions and endowment.

To learn more and explore resources about independent education and ADVIS member schools, visit

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