Most private schools in Connecticut and New York offer their own brand of specialty programs that focus on gifted or struggling learners; however, there are some nationally recognized programs that are offered exclusively by a limited number of private schools.
1. Advanced Placement Classes
The Advanced Placement program was launched in 1955 and is perhaps one of the most well-recognized gifted programs available in US classrooms. Available in both public and private high schools, schools must develop a curriculum that meets the college board’s standard for offering a college-level class at a high school level.
There are 34 AP courses and exams; however, schools are not required to offer all 34. Instead, many schools offer 5-20 of the AP courses and it has become common practice for schools to list the number of AP courses they offer in their admission information as an example of their rigor. Although some colleges may offer college credit or an introductory course waiver for students who receive a 5 on an AP exam, this practice is becoming less and less common as colleges begin relying on their introductory courses to acclimate new students to their campus.
While 31% of colleges and universities look at AP experience while making admission decisions, AP courses are not widely recognized outside of the United States.
2. The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB Program)
In Connecticut, only four high schools offer the IB Diploma Program, a globally recognized suite of courses offered in 147 countries, that emphasizes stewardship, intercultural connectedness, and communication. In an era of increasing globalization, earning an International Baccalaureate Diploma proves you are ready to become a global citizen and can communicate effectively across national lines.
Like AP, certain classes are labeled IB. Some schools will only allow students who have expressed a commitment to earning the IB Diploma to take IB level classes; however, Cheshire Academy allows any interested student to take any of our IB courses. This flexibility allows a student who loves Chemistry to take an IB level Chemistry course even if he does not want to complete the full IB program. IB courses are largely recognized all over the globe.
3. College Counseling Programs with College Fairs, Mock Interviews, and More
Unlike public schools, private schools invest time and energy into creating supportive, active college counseling programs. At Cheshire Academy, the college counseling department contains four counselors who help students create a best-fit schools to apply to, fill out their forms, track down recommendations, narrow down their application lists, and write their essays. At private schools, college counselors work hands-on with students at every step of the college application process.
In addition, many schools host college admission officers on campus for college fairs in the fall and spring. It’s helpful to compare which colleges attended each private school fair (this information is often listed on the website). In addition, some private schools have more robust supplementary college prep programs than others. For example, Cheshire Academy requires juniors and seniors to participate in a “mock interview” with a college admission officer before the fair begins.
In contrast, many college counselors at public schools may often have to work with hundreds of juniors and seniors. In this kind of environment counselors may be overburdened and might not have adequate time to nurture relationships with admission officers at colleges, organize college visit events, or even work directly with any one student. Most private schools hire enough college counselors so that each counselor has plenty of time to work with each and every student while also organizing programs that will give students a leg up during the college admission process.
4. SAT Prep Courses
Private schools that consider themselves to be college preparatory schools make sure that the only test they’re teaching to is the SAT-- which requires a broad knowledge of history, literature, logic, and critical thinking skills. For example, many private school English classes will make sure to include vocabulary components to help with the SAT verbal section, along with mini-lessons devoted to grammar that will appear on the SAT. In addition, the longer essays required in many private schools encourage students to logically connect their examples and arguments and defend their rhetorical decisions in writing, something that is necessary for all verbal SAT sections.
However, in addition to this day-to-day prep, most private schools offer extra after-school SAT classes taught by a gifted instructor. Though these supplemental courses may cost an additional fee, they are taught on campus, and typically by an instructor who already works with students in the classroom and knows their individual strengths and weaknesses.