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What does it mean to be an “independent” school?

Independent schools make all policy, curriculum, and procedure decisions in-house. Unlike public schools, including charter schools, they are not controlled by an outside agency, such as a county school board. Independent schools are led by a Head of School, who is in charge of the daily operation of the school and who reports on a regular basis to a board of trustees for the school. The board’s primary function is strategic planning for the school.

What advantages does an independent school have over public schools?

There are many, but the primary advantage is that all decisions are made for the good of the school community. The focus is always on what is best for your student and his/her schoolmates, which are often very different from the needs of students in other schools.

What is the advantage of choosing a AAAIS member school over other private or independent schools?

Schools that are part of an educational organization like AAAIS have avenues for collaboration and professional growth not available to schools that operate more in isolation. AAAIS sponsors regular meetings for many groups within its member schools.

Are AAAIS schools accredited?

Yes, accreditation by a recognized national or regional accrediting agency is required to become a AAAIS member.

I understand that your schools are funded primarily by tuition. Does this cause problems?

Quite the contrary. We know that free public schools are available to every student, and this creates a high degree of accountability for our schools. Simply put, the students in our schools have to be successful, happy, and productive, with success on national assessments and in post-secondary education as well. We must provide a true value-added in curriculum, extracurricular activities, safe environment, and character/service education. That is why thousands of families in the metro Atlanta area make the choice for their children to attend AAAIS member schools.

Is financial aid available?

Last year, over $80 million in financial aid was awarded to students in AAAIS schools. Only need-based aid is allowed, not scholarships for athletics, fine arts, academics, etc.

Are AAAIS schools diverse? Are non-discrimination policies in place?

Diversity is very important to our schools. To be members of AAAIS, all schools must have a publicly stated non-discrimination policy. In a recent survey of our schools, 24% of our total enrollment of over 35,000 were students of color.

Do your schools provide a rigorous college-preparatory education?

All AAAIS member schools that have a high school program are college prep, and those that serve students before students’ high school years pride themselves on the education they provide for their students to enter a demanding college-prep program. Because they are not tied to a bureaucracy, teachers in our schools do not have to teach to a test. Rather, they are able to explore topics in greater depth and develop in their students’ thinking and problem-solving skills.

Because of cost, some families wait until the high school years to enroll in an independent school. What is the benefit of sending a younger child to a AAAIS school?

A true love of learning must be developed in the younger years. AAAIS schools that have Pre-kindergarten and early elementary programs know this, and are expert in nurturing that innate love of learning and exploration that all children have. The value of smaller classes, devoted staff, and innovative curriculums lead our youngest students to capture that passion for learning – critical for long-term success.

Not all Atlanta area independent schools are members of AAAIS. Why not?

By far the main reason is the Common Notification Date for applicants. Most non-member schools operate on rolling admissions, meaning they will give admission decisions very quickly after the application is complete. This often creates a high pressure sales tactic to get accepted families to commit immediately, with a significant non-refundable financial down payment. Ending this practice was the reason AAAIS was founded a half-century ago.

So what do I do if I apply to both a AAAIS school and one that is not a member, and then get an early acceptance from the non-member school?

If you find that you receive an early acceptance to a non-AAAIS school (be it an independent school, charter school, or magnet program) and have to make a decision before the AAAIS Common Notification Date, immediately contact the AAAIS school to which you applied and explain the situation. Our schools are allowed to make exceptions – and make an early decision – for applicants caught in this situation.

I have another question not addressed here. Can you help me?

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