The Private School Difference How Atlanta’s schools stay a step above the rest
Whether you’re confident you want your child to enroll in one of Atlanta’s private schools or in the process of considering all available options, there are a lot of factors that should be considered when selecting the best school for your child. Each of Atlanta’s private schools have something different to offer, but the priorities that parents and guardians typically put at the top of their list include small class sizes, a focus on preparing students for college and beyond, a highly motivated learning environment and specialized programs and activities to suit their student’s interests and passions.
To assist you with your private school search, we spoke with a few of the metro area’s independent schools about what they have to offer in these key areas and how their dedication to developing core competencies and lifetime learners make each of these schools a great choice for relocating families.
Atlanta International School
2890 N Fulton Dr NE, Atlanta, 30305
age 3 – 12th grade
Class Sizes: In the primary school, the average class size about 18 students, and there are about 19-20 students per secondary school classroom. “What matters the most is the size of the learning groups,” explained Headmaster Kevin Glass, who said this teacher-student ratio is a more reflective way to gauge learning opportunities. “That is probably the single most important thing parents should look for, because that learning relationship between the students and the teacher is the single most important thing that drives learning.”
College Prep: At a recent meeting with parents of AIS’s three year old students, Glass said faculty and staff discussed how those students’ world will look different when they graduate in 2032 and how the school will prepare them for the challenges of the future and to not only be successful in life, but to make a positive difference. “We want kids who are going to be able to co-create with all sorts of diverse groups, regardless of where in the world or what religion or background the person is from or what languages they speak. We want kids who are going to be able to add value and solve complex problems wherever they find themselves, so much of the curriculum here is the students leading their own learning, solving the problems and the issues that matter to them.”
Learning Environment: Glass believes the problem with current school models is that everyone looks at schooling through the lens of his or her past experiences. “Much of that, to be honest, is going to be irrelevant for the future lives of our students. That’s the big challenge. So what we’ve done here is that students are the absolute center of their own learning journey and wherever possible, the students have control over their own learning journey.” People move from all over to come to AIS, which is often far away from their extended family, so Glass said its important for the school to feel like an extended family for its parents and students. “It really does take a village to educate every human being so creating that village, those webs of relationships around every one of us, is very important to us.”
Specialized Programs/Student Activities: With 94 different nationalities and 67 different languages spoken at AIS, Glass said language is more of a medium of instruction rather than a traditional course. “We use language instruction as a way to inform mindsets, to shape culture,” he said. AIS also offers an International Baccalaureate (IB) program from age 3 to grade 12, which is offered in many different languages. Through the IB program, students are at the center of solving issues and problems that matter to them, that matter to their local environmeant and that also matter on a global and human scale.
1662 W Rugby Ave, College Park, 30337
pre-K – 12th grade
Class Sizes: With a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1, Woodward Director of Communications Amy Morris said classes are warm and intimate, giving each child a place to safely spread their wings. “Each school is its own close-knit community, and as kids progress, their experiences at Woodward build, preparing them for a smooth transition to college and beyond,” Morris said. This low ratio provides students attentive, personalized instruction from faculty, coaches, counselors, mentors, and advisors in order to realize their best selves.
College Prep: “At Woodward, we make certain our students are ready—with a sure sense of who they are as people; as thinkers; as members of a diverse, dynamic community; and as citizens of a complex and evolving world,” Morris said. Woodward’s college counseling program strives to help students find the college or university that best matches their individual strengths and interests. Starting in ninth grade, Woodward’s team directs students in college awareness throughout Upper School, with specific discussions about college planning taking place during junior and senior years.
Learning Environment: Morris said Woodward offers courses at different levels so students can take it up a notch in areas where they feel confident and pull back a bit in areas where they need more reinforcement. “This ability to mix and match their course levels creates an environment where all of our students thrive because our curriculum truly meets each student where they are on their educational journey. We are a school for every student with a wide range of offerings and opportunities to explore academics, the arts, athletics, service, and global connections.”
Specialized Programs: Woodward’s elementary school features MakerSpaces that serve as the center for hands-on STEM exploration for its youngest students where they learn about coding and programming concepts. The STEM journey continues to the upper grade levels with robust course offerings in science, math, and computer science, robotics teams and clubs, and an Independent Scientific Research program where students tackle advanced research projects alongside esteemed university professors. Woodward also offers a Transition Learning Support Program for students who struggle with mild-to-moderate learning differences. Also, through its Global Connections Program, Woodward students have fantastic opportunities to study abroad and learn through hands-on experience, language immersions, and cultural exposure that only global travel and exchange can bring.
Student Activities: With 86 co-curricular clubs and activities—ranging from Robotics to Muslim Awareness Club to Outdoors Club—18 varsity sports, an array of intramurals, and robust offerings in performing and visual arts, there is something for every student and every interest at Woodward Academy.
Holy Spirit Preparatory School
4465 Northside Dr NW, Atlanta, 30327
6 months – 12th grade
Class Sizes: Holy Spirit Prep maintains consistently low class sizes from preschool through 12th grade, said Director of Communications Tim Durski. “While we cap classes at our Lower School at a maximum of 22 students, most classes maintain an average closer to 16 students. From our preschool to our high school, it’s easy to find a classroom with just 8-10 students.”
College Prep: Holy Spirit Prep employs a full-time director of college and academic counseling who works closely with families in ninth through 12th grade on preparing students for college, from monitoring their academic progress to college visits and admissions. “Our counselor walks each family through the college admissions process, including identifying best-fit schools, college applications, and financial aid planning,” Durski said. Seniors have the opportunity to attend lunch-and-learn events with professionals from businesses like Chick-Fil-A and Coca-Cola to learn about a broad range of professional opportunities in fields including medicine, law, business, and nonprofit administration.
Learning Environment: “We believe the core of learning comes from the relationship teachers build with their students,” Durski said. “Our teachers are not only content experts, they are people who care deeply about the personal, spiritual, and emotional well-being of each of their students. The trust they engender with their students enables a high level of engagement in the classroom.” At Holy Spirit Prep, teachers are also coaches, advisors, mentors, and role models.
Specialized Programs/Student Activities: Holy Spirit Prep hosts three academic centers on campus that support students across the range of learning exceptionalities, from academically gifted students to students with some mild language-based learning disabilities like dyslexia. Holy Spirit also offers a host of faith-based programs rooted in the Catholic tradition: daily cycles of prayer, Mass and Confession, retreats and spiritual direction. The school boasts a classically-inspired curriculum that includes required courses in Greek or Latin. In addition to regular after-school clubs and athletics, Holy Spirit hosts a number of “service apostolates” or clubs inspired by faith to acts of service, including homeless ministries, building affordable housing, and mentoring younger students.
1 Whitefield Dr SE, Mableton, 30126
pre-K4 – 12th grade
Class Sizes: Whitefield spokeswoman Cindy Fennel said a student-teacher ratio of 17:2 is common at Whitefield Academy, and the academy’s Lower School classrooms are all staffed with a lead teacher and a teaching assistant. “Teaching assistants free up valuable time for teachers to focus on what’s most important by helping with classroom décor, grading, walking students to specials classes like music, art, and supervising lunch,” Fennel said.
College Prep: A hallmark of the Whitefield Upper School experience is its College and Career Coaching program. “This extensive process leads juniors in actively assessing and evaluating their unique areas of giftedness prior to navigating the senior year college application process,” Fennel explained. A dedicated counselor guides small groups of students through a comprehensive and highly personalized 10-week program where students take personality and aptitude assessments, define areas of interest, identify personal values, and establish meaningful goals. At the end of the process, students have the opportunity to connect their results to real-life careers through college and career roundtables, where adult professionals share candidly about their own college and career experiences with small groups of juniors. “The program prepares and empowers students to seek college and career-related opportunities that are satisfying, fulfilling, and consistent with God’s calling for their lives,” Fennel said.
Learning Environment: Whitefield’s incredible, caring teachers are integral to giving students motivation and love of learning. “Our mission statement sets the standard, as we seek to ‘bolster Christian families in rearing young people who go on to life with a passion for learning, for others ahead of self and for the living and active Jesus,’” said Fennel. Whitefield teachers instill their own passions for their subject matter as they bring lessons to life in the classrooms, lab spaces, art studios, garden and athletic fields on campus.
Specialized Programs/Student Activities: Whitefield Academy offers many unique programs not found at other schools, including its newly debuted Innovation Lab, which is a fully equipped learning and tinkering space for students to enjoy during classes and via after school programs and clubs. With hi-tech engineering machinery, video and sound equipment, state of the art computing capabilities, traditional tools and electronics gear, the lab offers students the ability to imagine, design and create projects, independently or in collaboration with each other. “A passion for service” is part of Whitefield’s mission and runs deep within the school community. For Whitefield’s Great Day of Service, students, parents, faculty, and alumni come together to work in more than 50 different locations around the community, serving those in need.
The Lovett School
4075 Paces Ferry Rd NW, Atlanta, 30327
K – 12th grade
Class Sizes: In the Lower School, there are 20 children per class with two teachers. In the Middle School, there are about 17 students per class and in the Upper School, about 16. “Class size is an important consideration for all parents, but especially for those families relocating to Atlanta where the school they may be leaving might have smaller or larger class sizes,” said Director of Admission and Enrollment Management Janie Beck. “Relocating to a new city can be an adjustment for everyone in the family, but many times parents worry especially for their school-aged children — will they feel safe in their new school? Will they make friends? Will the academics be challenging? Ensuring that your child transitions to a school with small sizes can help to ease that initial adjustment.”
College Prep: Lovett faculty and administrators work hard to create an interdisciplinary learning environment where students are able to think critically, develop curiosity, collaborate, and engage purposefully with the subject matter. The school also has a strong emphasis on character education, where students learn empathy, responsibility, and integrity. Lovett has four college counselors, which allows each counselor the opportunity to give a great deal of one-on-one attention to students and parents. College counseling programming is available throughout the year for all families of students in ninth through 12th grades. “Many families find that these offerings help ease some of the stress often associated with the college search,” Beck said.
Learning Environment: At Lovett, school leaders believe it is of utmost importance that each student feels seen, valued, and known by teachers and administrators. “Our small class sizes allow each child to have meaningful relationships with teachers and administrators, which sets the foundation for productive learning,” Beck said. “As a result, Lovett students gain confidence in the classroom and come to school every morning ready and excited to learn. Additionally, we are committed to staying up-to-date with the most current brain research and best practices that we incorporate into our curriculum in grades K-12.”
Specialized Programs/Student Activities: Academic programs, courses, and projects at Lovett are all designed to link classrooms to the community. “At Lovett, we combine rigorous curricular goals with community-based learning in order to better connect academic study and real world experience,” Beck said. STEAM opportunities exist throughout the K-12 experience with design studios in each of the school’s three divisions. The school also maintains a strong commitment to the arts, with 90 percent of students involved in art programs through graduation. Lovett also boasts a rich history of athletic success – 86 percent of students in grades 7-12 compete in one or more of the 65 teams fielded in 22 sports. Lovett values and encourages a sense of responsibility to God, with weekly Christian chapel services, as well as respect for diversity, service to others, and moral awareness.