At private schools, students typically benefit from a few foundational perks: smaller class sizes, individualized attention and alternative or creative instruction within a values-based setting. In the Twin Cities metro alone, private schools serve more than 30,000 students at over 100 campuses. Private schools design their own curriculum, independent from government regulations, meaning they can customize programming to the needs of their students.
In the Twin Cities, the private-school acceptance rate is a whopping 92 percent (higher than the national average by 7 percent) and includes traditional private schools, religious schools, military prep schools and specialty institutes. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 30 percent of private schools are affiliated with the Catholic church, 50 percent are associated with a non-Catholic religion and 20 percent are nonsectarian.
Two types of nonsectarian and nondenominational private schools are Montessori and Waldorf schools. Montessori schools are based on the Montessori Method of Education, a common teaching philosophy that focuses on the spirit of play. Created by Italian doctor Maria Montessori in the early 1900s to foster individual learning and independence, the Montessori model lets children choose activities based on interests. Teachers in mixed-age classrooms act as observers and guides. Popular Montessori schools in the Twin Cities include Step by Step in St. Anthony, Bernie’s in Minneapolis, Lake Country in Minneapolis, Cathedral Hill in St. Paul, Mississippi Valley in West St. Paul, Little Voyageurs in Columbia Heights and Augsburg Park in Richfield.
Another method centered on play is the Waldorf School Method by Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Emphasizing “the head, the heart and the hands,” this philosophy deals in active learning, where school subjects are experienced rather than memorized. The arts become part of every lesson, and there are no grades. Another big difference? Screen time is deprioritized at school and at home. Classrooms mix ages in the early years, and it’s common for teachers to stay with students from first through eighth grade. In the Twin Cities, the Minnesota Waldorf School in St. Paul and the City of Lakes Waldorf School in Minneapolis both have excellent reputations.
Parents who send their kids to religious schools often cite academic, spiritual, social and emotional advantages. Two of the top Christian schools in the state, the Minneapolis-based Breck School and Minnehaha Academy, are known for rigorous academics, competitive athletics, welcoming teachers and driven students. According to one Blake alum, “No school will better prepare you for your college experience.” Popular Catholic schools in Minnesota include the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield, Hill-Murray in Maplewood, Holy Family in Victoria, Benilde-St. Margaret’s in St. Louis Park, DeLaSalle in Minneapolis, St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights, Nativity of Mary in Bloomington and Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, the largest private Catholic school in the state (and the alma mater of former Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer).
Of the many nondenominational private school options, the coeducational St. Paul Academy and Summit School is a premier example. This small, close-knit school offers a challenging academic program at every grade level, and students are encouraged to pursue interests in a nonjudgmental environment. At Mounds Park Academy in St. Paul, independent thinkers grow through a strong arts program and creative academics.
The Blake School, with campuses in Wayzata (preK-5), Hopkins (preK-5, 6-8) and Minneapolis (9-12), promotes a well-rounded liberal-arts education. Blake coaches one of the most successful debate programs in the country, repeatedly wins the Department of Energy’s Minnesota High School Science Bowl and offers 28 sports to choose from—including club sports like ultimate frisbee and sailing—plus equestrian and dance teams. And at the International School of Minnesota, in Eden Prairie, students can think as global citizens: The faculty and student body have international backgrounds, representing more than 40 countries and 30 languages.