In looking at the value of an independent school education, and specifically the opportunities at Harrisburg Academy that are more and different than those elsewhere in the area, one crucial characteristic benefits our students and puts us in a league with other great independent schools: our class size and our school size. In an era of super-sized schools, many families find great value in the small class and school size that schools like Harrisburg Academy offer.
Our size facilitates regular communication between our parents and our teachers – whether in the hallways, by email, by phone, or in person – adding to the value of the relationship formed in the partnership between parents, classroom teachers, faculty advisors, staff, and students. According to one long-time parent, “One of the main reasons we chose Harrisburg Academy as the school for our daughter was the small-school community that facilitates close interaction between the faculty and our family.”
Small class sizes, as well, are another part of the value of a smaller educational community. “I think there is definitely a benefit to smaller class sizes,” an Upper School parent shared. “Most students feel more comfortable within a smaller group and therefore are willing to speak up in class or talk with the teacher without feeling embarrassed or ignorant.”
“From my perspective as a teacher,” said Amy Miller, Upper School history teacher, “I am 100 percent more effective when instructing smaller classes. I have time to foster critical discussion; I develop meaningful relationships with my students; I have more time to assess student progress; I plan more dynamic lessons; and I am better able to identify and address student learning issues. But the top benefit,” she added, “is the incredible rapport we teachers foster with our small student population.”
Particularly in a school like the Academy which serves average, above-average, and gifted students, a small class ensures teachers the ability to provide necessary support for each student to reach high academic expectations. Currently, the Academy’s average is 15 students per class, while our teacher/student ratio is a very low 8:1.
To reach our students individually, ensure they are learning the essential skills needed for the future, and allow them to explore interests of their own, we believe a small-school setting is crucial. Students do best in places where they can’t slip through the cracks. Our students are known by their teachers and peers, and their personal learning journey becomes the collective mission of a number of trusted adults.