On the surface, it seems like traditional secondary schools are in an enviable position…

  • attcampus lawnractive and safe leafy campuses dotted with historic buildings
  • long histories of providing the best in secondary education
  • deep and tightly-held traditions
  • competitive athletic programs
  • happy, healthy, bright and ambitious students
  • placement of graduates to top-tier colleges and universities
  • dedicated and generous alumni
  • sizeable endowments
  • supportive and enthusiastic parents and alumni
  • wise administrators, talented faculty and dedicated staffs

Dig a little deeper and we find that – some, not all – secondary schools are faced with serious and undeniable challenges:

  • a smaller projected school-aged population
  • alternatives to traditional secondary schools (e.g., home schooling, magnet schools, specialty/trade schools)
  • an unpredictable macroeconomy
  • increased need for the provision of financial aid
  • fundraising difficulties
  • aging campuses and rising infrastructure costs (e.g., maintenance, replacement, expansion, improvement)
  • dependence on endowment for operating costs
  • adoption of new classroom technologies
  • use and abuse of alcohol and illegal drugs
  • hidden or apparent psychological problems
  • finding optimal domestic/international admission ratios
  • faculty turnover

crew rowingThe premise of private secondary schools as students’ primary pathways to the most selective colleges and universities – and eventually to business and social leadership positions – is, not surprisingly, dated if not totally obsolete.  Many schools have myopically refused to accept this reality, continuing their primary college preparatory role while missing the opportunity to make a strong case for its compelling and invaluable benefits.

The college admissions landscape has been altered by standardized testing, the availability of AP courses, as well as the growth of high quality independent day schools and magnet high schools.  Colleges and universities now seek and value diversity in their student bodies – seeking not just the best and brightest from a boarding school environment but talented students from every geographic region and social stratum.

Faced with a diminishing talent pool from which to attract prospective students, secondary schools have responded with a variety of initiatives: increases in day student populations, greater economic and racial diversity, coeducation, active recruitment of international students, the improvement of the physical plant (e.g., new buildings) and a growth of academic and extracurricular programs designed to appeal to the various desires of the marketplace.  Many of these proposals have succeeded in rebuilding the pool of secondary school applicants, although the market can no longer be considered robust and/or growing.  Furthermore, the demographic shift of an aging (and no longer reproducing) “baby-boom generation” portends a smaller secondary school age population from which to draw in the coming decades.

By undertaking a comprehensive examination of both its mission and its internal operations, secondary schools not only better define their own performance but also better prepare students for the both challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for them.  Secondary schools cannot expect to reverse years of decline by responding immediately to the marketplace demands; many need to do a better job of:

  • differentiating themselves programmatically
  • defining and disseminating their unique mission
  • communicating – with compelling evidence – the tangible and intangible benefits of a residential secondary education.

We at secondariae LLC simply help make private secondary schools the best they can be and would be honored to work together with you to make your school be its best.