Independent Schools: Colleges Need to Grant Us The Gift of Autonomy | Alden Blodget | 5 Min Read

September 22, 2022

Although independent schools enjoy the autonomy to shape their own curricula, policies, and practices and to govern themselves free from federal and state oversight, that autonomy is constrained by a long history of being held hostage by college admissions offices, which establish the criteria for admission, and, as a result, by parents who pay a small fortune specifically to get their kids into the most reputable of those colleges. What is the point of autonomy if you can’t use it? Why hasn’t NAIS moved independent schools beyond the image of launching pads for higher education?

NAIS markets itself to parents with claims that independent schools are “special” because they are “independent in the truest sense of the word.” “Each independent school is driven by its own unique philosophy, values, and approach to teaching,” which theoretically gives us “the freedom to create educational experiences that meet each child’s needs.” 

Not in my experience

Colleges want all their applicants to meet the traditional graduation requirements: four years of English, three years of science, etc. Secondary schools are constricted by intense college pressure to ensure that students build resumes on this base and add as many AP and honors…

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Alden Blodget

Veteran teacher and administrator Alden S. "Denny" Blodget is the author of "Learning, Schooling and the Brain: New Research vs. Old Assumptions." He also helped create the Annenberg Foundation's Neuroscience & the Classroom. He is the editor for, a free online resource focusing on issues affecting young people and the adults who work with them.