Exploring Private Middle Schools in Los Angeles

While parents in Los Angeles are no strangers to long discussions over where to send their children for elementary school and high school, choosing an option for the preteen years of middle school — traditionally grades 6-8 — might get left out of those conversations.

The reason is simple: Private schools that serve only grades 6-8 are a relative rarity in California. In most cases, middle school is part of a larger elementary or high school, or a school that serves grades K-12.

As a result, experts say, middle school is often packaged into a broader decision about where children are educated. Parents of younger students might select an elementary school that covers middle school grades. Parents of older students might select a school that combines middle and high school.

“Generally, it’s that split,” says Deborah Dowling, executive director of the California Association of Independent Schools. “It’s ‘do I attach middle school to the lower-school experience or to the upper-school experience?’ Or do I go for a K-12, where it’s seamlessly integrated?”

[READ: How Much Does Private School Cost?]

Parents Are Rethinking Education

Whatever the choice, education experts say that many Los Angeles parents are reevaluating options for schooling in the wake of the pandemic.

“I feel like what’s going on in Los Angeles, and maybe across the nation, is that there’s just so much change in education right now,” says Priya Nambiar, who spent years in private school admissions before opening her consulting firm, Nambiar Advising, almost a decade ago. “The pandemic really threw conventional ideas of education out the window.”

Private schools in Southern California, which are often smaller and better funded than their public school counterparts, were able to adapt more quickly in the pandemic. Many made a smoother tradition to virtual school and a quicker return to in-person learning. Experts say that attracted the attention of some parents who want more control over their children’s education.

“When everyone suddenly had to go virtual, a lot of people who had always done things the same way and never questioned their assumptions started to ask questions about choice,” Dowling says. “What do I really want out of education? What am I looking for? What other opportunities might be out there? Because suddenly, the obvious thing that they’ve always been doing is different and gone. It drew a lot of people out of their routine and got people thinking more about choices.”

Nambiar says that a year of virtual school also gave many parents in Los Angeles and across the country a much better look at how their children are educated.

“This is the first time that parents have had an intimate view into their children’s education,” she says. “Now, granted, it was over Zoom. But it was real insight into their children … Families started to become involved in their children’s education in an entirely different way because they could see it — it was in their home every day.”

[READ: Looking at Private Middle Schools in Washington, D.C.]

Private Middle School Options

For Los Angeles parents looking to explore private middle school options, here’s a sample of what’s available:

The Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles serves grades 6 to 12. The average class size is 16 and the student-to-teacher ratio is 7-to-1. There are more than 140 course offerings and programs and more than 40 student clubs and activities.

Berkeley Hall School in Los Angeles serves 260 students in grades PK-8. It has an average class size of 18 and a student-to-teacher ratio of 8-to-1. Ninety percent of eighth graders get into the high school of their choice, according to the school.

Brentwood School in Los Angeles serves about 1,200 K-12 students across two campuses. It has about 350 middle school students. The average class size is 17 and the student-to-teacher ratio is 8-to-1. The school’s Center for Innovative Leadership provides a focus on entrepreneurship and real-world problem-solving.

The Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, California, has about 830 K-12 students and an average class size of 13. The student-to-teacher ratio is 12-to-1. All seventh graders take a “life skills” class and eighth graders are asked to choose a passion project that they work on throughout the year.

Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles serves about 1,600 students in seventh through 12th grades. The middle school, which serves grades 7-9, has its own campus. The average class size is 16 and the student-to-teacher ratio is 8-to-1, according to the school.

The International School of Los Angeles serves about 1,000 PK-12 students across multiple campuses. Middle school students take up to 11 courses and study English, French and Spanish. Graduating eighth graders take the DELF test in French proficiency.

Milken Community School in Los Angeles serves more than 700 students in grades 6-12. The school has a robust Jewish community. The middle school has its own campus.

Mirman School in Los Angeles is a K-8 school for highly gifted students where learning is accelerated by a full grade level. An IQ test is required for admission.

New Horizon School in Pasadena, California, is a K-8 school with about 190 students. The student-to-teacher ratio is 17-to-1 in the middle school. A civics program culminates in an eighth grade trip to Washington, D.C.

Wildwood School in Los Angeles serves 725 K-12 students across two campuses, including almost 170 middle schoolers. The middle school and high school have their own campus. The student-to-teacher ratio is 15-to-1.

Searching for a school? Explore our K-12 directory.

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Exploring Private Middle Schools in Los Angeles originally appeared on usnews.com

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