The president of the National Association of Independent Schools Dr. John Chubb spoke at GPS on Friday identifying three challenges for independent schools and the opportunities they present.
GPS was one of his last stops on his yearlong “listening tour,” and representatives of the six NAIS-member schools in Chattanooga – Baylor, The Bright School, GPS, McCallie, St. Nicholas School, and St. Peter’s Episcopal School – were in the audience.
“The market for schools has changed a lot,” he said, listing more competition, improvements in some public schools, and increased numbers of charter schools as factors. He praised the values-based environment of independent schools that leads to every child being treated with the same respect and diligence. Noting that the nation is becoming “remarkably diverse,” he said, “Our schools are more diverse than most individual public schools” whose student bodies are “based on residential patterns.”
Another challenge he enumerated is affordability. Acknowledging that “independent schools have become more expensive relative to the marketplace,” he said that “the most important expenditure that schools make is for teachers.” Therefore, the schools that will be the most successful, he said, are those that “attract and retain the best teachers,” he said, adding, “Bureaucracy and unions do not provide the best environment for people who want to be great teachers.” Calling independent schools “professional development environments,” he said, “Public schools are not always an easy environment for experimentation.”
The third challenge Dr. Chubb identified is the demand for evidence of value. “We don’t use the rhetoric of educating the whole child,” he said. “Independent schools are rich with academic opportunities, fine arts, athletics, and electives…opportunities for kids to learn.” He emphasized that schools must be clear and serious about their values and what they stand for. Values clarification is “an opportunity for us to distinguish ourselves.”
Dr. Chubb has devoted his career to education, working with teachers in K-12 schools; examining issues of key importance to school leaders and policymakers as a researcher; and leading an education consultancy and a think tank. In 1992, he co-founded Edison Learning, Inc., a pioneering education management organization, where he worked for 18 years.