Specialty Schools

Celebrating Atlanta’s Unique Private Schools

Beyond a home and job, the No. 1 concern for parents moving to a new city is the education of their children, especially when they learn in unique ways. One thing parents relocating to Atlanta can be sure of is that the city and its metro areas have the needs of your children as top priority; from schools specializing in programs that are flexible for children with full-time extracurricular engagements to students that struggle with learning in a traditional setting, the following are some of the city’s best private schools dedicated to educating the whole child.

Atlanta Girls’ School, founded in 2000 and serving grades six through 12, was custom-built for one purpose: girls’ achievement and success. It strives to provide a challenging college-preparatory program in a learning environment designed to foster the full potential of each student and enable her to become a vital contributor to our complex global society. Utilizing girl-centered strategies both inside and outside of the classroom to ensure that all aspects of the learning environment are right for girls, students learn to take appropriate risks, be courageous leaders, give back to their communities and project personal confidence and competence in all they do.

The school’s curriculum and culture emerge from a distinct vision of what girls must learn individually and collectively to become thoughtful and capable leaders. Students have unprecedented access to real-world experiences and complete two customized internships with local, national or international organizations. The internships fuel a robust opportunity of extracurricular learning that culminates in each student’s capstone project and senior speech to the entire school. “I have five girls, all of whom are very different learners and personalities,” says Sid Mashburn, a father of three AGS graduates. “My girls emerged from AGS more confident, independent and willing to ask questions, as well as determined to send their own daughters to an all-girls school, which kind of says it all.”

In 1938, Katherine Hamm and the Junior League of Atlanta founded Atlanta Speech School so that children who were deaf or hard of hearing could learn to speak and read regardless of their family’s financial means. During the school’s 76-year history, the programs have evolved, expanded and been reinvented consistently with advances in research, technology, instruction and therapy, as well as uncovering unmet needs. Atlanta Speech School is now the nation’s most comprehensive center for language and literacy with four schools, five clinics, summer programs and a professional development center.

The Kenan Preschool is an early childhood education program that develops engaged learners who are exceptionally prepared for school. It uses an academic curriculum focused on language and literacy that incorporates research on how young children best develop the complex vocabulary, critical thinking skills and empathy demanded for them to succeed as confident, independent learners.

The only program of its kind in Georgia, the school’s Stepping Stones Preschool addresses speech and language delays by integrating both therapy and education throughout its curriculum. A teaching team made up of a speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, education specialist and assistant teacher uses a unique collaborative approach to target the specific needs of each child.

Wardlaw School, serving children with dyslexia in grades K-6, uses a unique Integrated Intervention Model that allows classroom teachers to collaborate with reading specialists, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists and the director to develop programming that fully addresses each child’s individual strengths and weaknesses. Wardlaw teachers are trained in a variety of multi-sensory approaches so they can use the method best suited to each child.

The Bedford School, founded by Dr. Betsy Box in the fall of 1985, began with 36 students at Southwest Christian Church in East Point. In 2001, Bedford moved to its own 45-acre facility in Fairburn. The original goal remains the same: to maximize the potential of students with learning differences and develop foundations for success. The school serves students in first through ninth grades who have been professionally identified as having specific learning differences such as dyslexia, Central Auditory Processing, Attention Deficit Disorder and related neurological conditions. The goal is to maximize each student’s potential and most of Bedford students transition into traditional high school settings.

Math and language arts are taught twice a day with a specialized Orton-Gillingham-based reading program, in addition to a strong academic program, ability groupings, soccer, basketball, volleyball and track. The summer program, Squirrel Hollow, is open to children who need an academic boost in the summer and is not limited to Bedford students. Families who come to Bedford are looking for a school to address their children’s special needs and come from 12 counties, showing parents will do anything to help their children.

When Elliott Galloway founded The Galloway School in 1969, his dream was to offer a radically different school where, instead of focusing on test scores and outcomes, the focus would be on the rigorous process of learning how to learn. Since its beginning, Galloway has been a leader in progressive education. Through innovation, enthusiasm and high expectations, Galloway draws students joyfully into learning and cultivates the intrinsic curiosity and unrepeatable talents of each one.

In addition to their strong academic program, Galloway boasts highly-acclaimed arts and athletics programs, which allow every student the opportunity to participate on a sports team or performance ensemble if they choose to do so. Galloway also offers more than 40 electives to both middle and upper learning students and more than 40 electives to middle learning students. Each student also has the opportunity to customize their curriculum based on their individual passions and goals. What continually draws families to Galloway is the school’s commitment to the whole child, as learning at every level involves daring, deliberate, dynamic discovery that engages students and develops in them a lifelong love of learning.

Dedicated to the concept of success in school and success in life, Mill Springs Academy is an SACS/SAIS accredited college-preparatory independent school that was founded in 1981 by Tweetie L. Moore. The student population at Mill Springs consists of students with average to superior range of intellectual ability in grades one through 12 who are not reaching their potential in a traditional educational setting. The philosophy of the school is best stated in Moore’s quote: “I’ve always believed that if a student can’t learn the way we teach, we should teach the way a student can learn.”

Mill Springs provides children with learning disabilities and/or ADHD an effective alternative to the traditional educational setting. The school offers small classes with a values-based social curriculum, which supports the student by raising expectations and developing self-motivation. Students determine their strengths while learning compensatory strategies. It offers competitive sports and fine arts instruction in art, band, chorus and drama to foster their interests or hidden talents. Parents of students at Mill Springs agree that the school’s commitment to the academic, physical and social growth of students makes it an optimum choice for their children’s education.

Founded in 1985, The Cottage School strives to build a sense of self for students with special learning needs through academic and experiential programming. The school prepares individuals for fulfillment of their true potential as confident, productive and independent adults. It serves students in grades six through 12 with mild to moderate learning disabilities. Carefully designed to meet Georgia high school graduation standards, as well as HOPE Scholarship requirements, the curriculum exposes students to various situations and subjects that assist them in unlocking their own unique talents and finding their niche in life. All seniors must prepare an approved post-secondary plan as part of graduation requirements.

The Cottage School offers its students a wealth of opportunities they may miss out on in a traditional school setting. Some of these include Summer High School for Credit and After School for Credit Programs, Project Work that helps students land their first job and work as a team, art and tutoring in all subjects. The Virtual Diploma Program provides students involved in full-time performing arts or sports the ability to earn a degree from an accredited high school online. The Cottage School addresses not only academic growth but also social emotional development and the skills needed to succeed in today’s world beyond the classroom.

The SAE School, originally named the Smyrna Academy of Excellence, was founded by a group of educators and parents who wanted a school that thought differently and wasn’t afraid to truly be outside the traditional education paradigm. With the help and input of other specialists, after almost three years of planning, the doors of The SAE School opened on Aug. 13, 2013, with a mission to be the most “exceptionally safe, innovative and rigorous school in Georgia.” Their educational standards come from the states that produce the well-prepared students in the nation, including California and North Carolina. Now serving 270 students with projected growth to 400 for the 201-16 school year, SAE is not affiliated with a specific church or religion, and it is a federally recognized nonprofit.

Located in Mableton and serving Smyrna and south Cobb, SAE boasts students commuting to the school from 27 different ZIP codes. “[Parents] tell us regularly that they are happy to make the drive because our school understands their child as an individual,” says Jill Meiser with the SAE Governing Board. Educators at SAE specialize in project-based learning, a methodology in which all areas of learning are encompassed in units, themes and projects. These collaborative, research-based learning opportunities allow students to become higher-level critical thinkers and creative problem solvers. “Our other outstanding characteristic is our belief in the student as an integral part of the educational process,” Meiser adds. “Students are encouraged to influence the direction of the projects, the activities of the school and the environment of the school as a whole.”