5 Great New York Schools Putting Students First

With a rise in standardized testing, many schools adhere to a strict, dull curriculum. Some parents look for alternative institutions that emphasize a child's whole self rather than their test scores, and that foster a learning environment involving the arts, outdoor education, and more. In no particular order, this list shares some New York-based schools that put students above all else.

At #1, we have Harvest Collegiate High School. Founded in 2012, it uses a system of performance-based assessments to show the intellectual work students can achieve. These include a literary analysis, a historical research paper, a science lab project, and a complex math problem. Students are allowed to revise their work until they are ready to present to a panel.

For advanced students, the school offers honors and AP classes. There are several extracurriculars young scholars can participate in, such as a dance team, a newspaper, and theater. Juniors are invited to a career fair where they can meet representatives from over 30 professions, such as first responders, wedding planners, authors, lawyers, activists, and dentists.

Coming in at #2, we present Aaron, a private K-12 special education school. Its mission is to serve students with reading, writing, math, attention, sensory, and social challenges. Aaron hopes to provide a safe and supportive school climate so learners can become confident, successful citizens of their community.

Students are placed in small, structured, language-based classrooms instructed by teachers with specialized training, many of whom are pursuing an advanced degree in special education. Aaron supports a holistic learning model by providing enrichment in physical education, art, technology, and music.

Next up, at #3, we have Allendale Columbia, located in Rochester, New York. It is an independent, co-ed institution for students in nursery through grade 12. Among its notable traditions is Blue/White Day, which comprises school-wide athletic competitions where older students are paired with younger ones. The kids first have a picnic lunch together, and then compete in various field events and contests.

Allendale Columbia's 33-acre campus has two athletic centers, two playing fields, a large courtyard, and a modern playground for kids to get fresh air and exercise. In the dining area, students are served healthy and sustainable meals in a family-style setting.

The #4 entry is Hackley School, a K-12 independent institution on a single campus in Tarrytown, New York. It is founded on the belief that a diverse community is paramount, and focuses on student character as much as academic success. Hackley's five-day boarding program allows upperclassmen the chance to experience the best of both boarding and day school: living on campus during the week and returning home on the weekend.

The Johnson Center for Health and Wellness is the home of Hackley's physical education and athletics programs, featuring basketball courts, a swimming pool, a fencing studio, an indoor track, and more. The Lower School has a garden space where the institution's youngest students learn about sustainability, composting, science, and nutrition.

Rounding out our list at #5 is the Lycee Francais de New York, which provides a dual French and English education to students. Its curriculum combines aspects of France and the United States' core academic traditions to create a bilingual learning environment that focuses on academia and well-being.

Lycee Francais's after-school programs and clubs offer students many opportunities to further develop their interests and talents. Areas of experience include art, cooking, theater, music, writing, government, computer programming, and engineering. Guided by two faculty advisors, Secondary students lead a Diversity Club to help foster inclusion at the institution.