Manhattan Family Guide to Private Schools


This perennial seller, now revised and expanded, is the first, last, and only word for parents on choosing the best private school for their children. Including information on admissions procedures, programs, diversity, school size, staff, tuition, and scholarships, this essential reference guide lists over seventy elementary and high schools located in Manhattan and the adjacent boroughs, including special needs schools and selective public schools and programs.

"Parents will line up single file for the first ...

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This perennial seller, now revised and expanded, is the first, last, and only word for parents on choosing the best private school for their children. Including information on admissions procedures, programs, diversity, school size, staff, tuition, and scholarships, this essential reference guide lists over seventy elementary and high schools located in Manhattan and the adjacent boroughs, including special needs schools and selective public schools and programs.

"Parents will line up single file for the first guide to Manhattan's private schools." (The New York Observer)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781569472491
  • Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/1/2003
  • Edition description: REVISED
  • Edition number: 4
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 5.34 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 1.49 (d)

Meet the Author

Victoria Goldman has children in private schools and is often quoted for her expertise concerning private education. Her articles have appeared in New York Magazine and The New York Times. Victoria Goldman is co-author of the Manhattan Directory of Private Nursery Schools and the author of the Los Angeles Guide to Private Schools.

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Read an Excerpt


The "private" school admissions season begins the day after Labor Day when New York City parents start to drag their children, barely out of diapers, through four months of touring and testing, then wait in a state of suspended animation until the middle of that bleak wintry day in February or March when a thick or thin envelope arrives in the mail. (Thick envelopes contain a contract; thin, a non-acceptance letter). Parental egos are either elated or deflated, but for those who are disappointed, it's still not too late to go house hunting in Westchester.

    There are over seventy independent schools in the New York City area; these include some of the best schools in the nation. There are schools with religious affiliations, schools for children with learning disabilities, Montessori Schools and a Waldorf School: There really is an independent school for everyone, but it just might not be the one you have your heart set on. And though applying to New York City's independent schools has not gotten less stressful over the years, there have been important demographic changes in the city itself that have significantly altered the admissions game.

    What Is an Independent School?

All of the member schools of the Independent Schools Admissions Association of Greater New York (ISAAGNY) are not for profit, racially nondiscriminatory, have their own board of trustees, are chartered by the New York State Board of Regents and accredited by the New York State Association of Independent Schools or the Middle-States Association of Colleges and Schools. Independent schools have six basic characteristics: 1) self-governance, 2) self-support, 3) self-defined curriculum, 4) self-selected students, 5) self-selected faculty, 6) small size. Private schools, on the other hand, are owned by individuals who may derive profits or incur losses from school operations. Teachers in these schools do not need to be certified by the state. They are, however, likely to be experts in their fields, for example, a historian teaching history or a drama department head who is a playwright and director when he's not teaching. Most independent school kindergarten teachers have a master's in early childhood education.

    Perhaps the most important difference between independent and public schools is that the formers' "fundamental freedom from state and local governments' regulation has allowed independent schools to develop outside of the ferment that has rocked the public schools." And, of course, public schools do not charge tuition and every child is entitled to placement in such a school (subject to residence requirements and other such prerequisites).

    Each school has its own unique character, with a board of trustees that appoints the head of school, who ensures that the school fulfills its educational mission. The headmaster (in conjunction with the development office) assumes the role of CEO and major fund-raiser. Every independent school has its own philosophy of education, its "statement of mission" (the primary aims of the school). This mission statement is always included in the school's literature, but you sometimes have to read between the lines to find it. Each independent school is accountable to its students and their parents; if the parents are not happy with the fulfillment of the school's mission they can remove their children and find another that suits them better. If enough parents do so, the school will fail.

    A good reputation is so vital to independent schools that although some myths about a school such as "having the brightest kids" or admitting "only the most terrific families" or "getting the most kids into the top Ivy League colleges" are misleading and often false, they do attract applicants. And some school admissions personnel, perhaps inadvertently, help perpetuate these "positive" myths. The fact is, independent schools are much more mixed than anyone admits. (We found that siblings and legacies were the great equalizers.) As the New York State Association of Independent Schools Guide to Choosing a School states, while SAT scores and college admissions records are "good indicators of the quality of the student body, not necessarily of the school ... the schools of worth are those whose students, facile or not, are helped to realize their highest potential, develop a lifelong love of learning and forge good character."

    The level of work, the pressure, pace of learning and challenge, hours of homework and amount of remedial support provided by the school all contribute to designation as "very selective." The qualities a child needs to get in and stay in one of these schools are strong academic potential, an outgoing nature, intensity, good self-esteem, independence, maturity and perseverance. A less competitive, more nurturing school would be better for a child with an average IQ, a known learning disability, a very creative or artistic nature or a nonconformist or shy personality. A desire not to subject a child to externally imposed requirements at an early age and a belief in a child's innate abilities, which, given time to flower, will lead him to a happier, more fulfilling life militate against the choice of a highly pressured school experience.

    We believe that there truly is a school for your child, but it is not true that if you can pay, your child can go to the school of your choice. The apparent arbitrariness of admissions decisions is hard for "power-house parents" to accept. Said one admissions director: "After all, they got into an Ivy League school, joined the sorority/fraternity of their choice, landed the job of their dreams and they expect the same for their child too." The baby boom echo is making admissions at all levels very competitive. In response, many schools are expanding their lower schools, adding an extra kindergarten or first grade class that will continue up through the school.

    In the past few years, schools that give preference to siblings and legacies (descendants of former students) have often had more applicants than places, and have been forced to make some difficult decisions. Your child's year might be a year in which many siblings apply at the school of your choice but take heart: If your child doesn't get into your first-choice school in kindergarten, you might try again in a few years, by which time attrition will probably have occurred due to divorce and families relocating to other cities and the suburbs. Because more families are now staying in the city, fewer places are available in first through fifth grades. Places do become available in sixth and seventh grades at most schools. (Another interesting trend is that of single, divorced parents moving back into the city with older children to enroll in independent schools.)

Changes in School Services

Gone are the days when women volunteers devoted their time exclusively to serving on school committees, chaperoning field trips and organizing fund-raisers. The two-career family is now the norm (and you are as likely to see a forty-five-year-old father attending the school play or walking afternoon safety patrol as a mother). There is an increased need for after-school, vacation and summer programs, and working parents are happiest if those programs are part of their children's own schools. Most schools now have after-school programs. Caedmon School was the first to introduce "child-minding" until 6:00 P.M. Even the Collegiate School and Brearley School finally added their own after-school programs, recognizing that working families depend on these services and if they want diversity in their schools they have to provide support for them. (Parents are also scheduling more after-school activities such as sports, music and religious instruction, in addition to playdates, for their children.)

    One outcome of working parents' desire to have their children in school for longer hours is that the Guild of New York Independent Schools agreed to extend the independent school year from 160 days to 170 days (still ten days short of the public school schedule). Schools also agreed to open their doors earlier in the fall, closer to the Labor Day holiday weekend. A handful of schools still give "travel days" on either side of spring break, a vestige of the era in which families routinely packed a trunk for Europe. Now many of these families travel to snow country in Utah or Colorado.

Financial Pressures

The question of the affordability of private school education is becoming more acute as tuition for Manhattan day schools, which doubled in the past decade, continues to rise. Now parents can expect to pay about $14,000 and up for third-grade tuition. In addition, the gap between income generated by tuition and rising operating costs has widened and all schools count upon voluntary giving and annual fundraising revenues. "Schools are under more pressure for outside fundraising from corporate and private sources than at any time in the past," according to an administrator of educational grants at a prestigious foundation. "Capital campaigns seem to come around as often as White Sales these days," says one beleaguered family. We know a couple who received a solicitation letter from their son's school announcing a new capital campaign with a return card enclosed showing a suggested contribution of $10,000. The next day the couple marched into the development office and asked, "Do you expect this much every year?" They were informed that they could pay in monthly installments over a five year period. The pressure to give can be especially intense when the class representative tells you they are hoping for 100% participation. What most parents don't realize is that there is no threshold for annual giving. Parents are asked to give whatever they can; contributions within a given class may range from $5.00 to $25,000. Of course only a contribution of $10,000 and above will earn you inclusion in "The Headmaster's Circle"; the new millennium's equivalent of The Social Register.

    The economic boom has allowed the independent schools to make capital improvements and raise the bar academically; tuitions have gone up as well. While endowments have doubled since the late 90's, a deep recession could strain a school's finances. (However, parents who are concerned about the financial health of a prospective school should not ask for the annual report until after their child has been accepted.) A healthy endowment shouldn't be the only reason to pick a school. But unless a school has a substantial endowment current parents will be the school's prime source of revenue.

    Many parents do not know that tuition covers only about 80 percent of a school's operating expenses and budget, much of this going toward teacher salaries and fringe benefits. Capital improvements, new technology and science labs, and improvements and repairs to existing facilities, are necessary to keep the schools competitive. Adding to this pressure is the increased need for tuition assistance of parents whose children are already in the schools. "A tremendous increase in the amount of money raised by annual giving and capital fund programs over the past decade" has helped schools make ends meet, according to Fred Calder, Executive Director of the New York State Association of Independent Schools. Thus it doesn't hurt to have families who manage charitable foundations in the parent body. As one admissions director confided, "We are a business, you know."

    There is increased concern about socioeconomic stratification within school populations as many middle and upper middle income families find that they are unable or unwilling to pay approximately $150,000 for thirteen years of private school tuition. Most schools are seeing an increase in families with high income levels applying for financial aid. According to Meade Thayer, Director of Financial Aid Services at NAIS, "Families may well have financial need from their perspective, but does the school have the financial aid available to meet the needs of all families applying?" Schools are being forced to make tough decisions about which families to support. "The decisions they make illustrate the school's attitude toward socioeconomic diversity and their desire to have it," says Thayer.

    Following the national trend towards eliminating junior high schools in favor of middle schools (serving grades 6-8), Community School Districts 2 and 3 on the Upper East and West sides of Manhattan recently decided to end their elementary schools at fifth grade. A number of very bright and highly motivated fifth grade public school students now apply to the private schools for entrance at sixth grade. Many of the top private schools are scrambling to make space for them, while at the same time, reserving places for Prep for Prep program graduates who enter at seventh grade. Some schools we surveyed, such as Riverdale Country Day School, and Trinity School, told us that because of the way their schools are structured (the lower school is comprised of kindergarten through sixth grade, for instance) and/or because of space restraints, openings in sixth grade at those schools would depend upon natural attrition. Others, including The Brearley School, Horace Mann and the Dalton School said they had already expanded their sixth grades to accommodate public school applicants.

    As tuitions climb and the competition for places in the most exclusive schools becomes more intense, the private schools face growing resentment from full-tuition paying families who find that their hard earned tuition dollars are subsidizing increasing numbers of scholarship students. However, NAIS statistics reveal that the numbers of students receiving full scholarship is in fact declining. Schools find it is more cost effective to support two families on partial assistance (each paying $6,000 toward tuition, for example) thus achieving a greater diversity of families for the same investment. In another instance of how elementary and secondary private school admissions parallel admissions at the college level, some middle class families of color, Hispanic and Asian families, (all of whom are historically underrepresented in private schools), cognizant of their marketability, find that they are able to shop around for the best deal.

    Parents should keep in mind that there is a significant difference between applying for financial assistance at the elementary and secondary levels and applying at the college level where federal assistance is available in addition to institutional assistance. Parents of elementary and secondary school age children also have another viable option—public school. More middle and upper middle class parents are considering select city public schools for a portion of their child's education. Although Hunter Elementary is under the aegis of Hunter College of the City of New York, acceptance to this highly selective tuition-free school is considered as desirable as acceptance to the most prestigious private school. The specialized high schools such as Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech are still magnets for many private school students beginning in ninth grade.


At one independent school this spring, we watched as the "old" Macintosh computers went out the door and the "new" Dell computers came in. To remain competitive and up-to-the-minute, schools are under increasing pressure to spend more of their budget on technology. In addition, many schools are running "computer initiative" capital campaigns to further augment their technology programs. One school hosted a "cybercarnival" to give the school's technology program a boost.

    Upgrading hardware, adding high speed connections to the Internet and buying the latest CD-ROMS and software is just a part of the expense. The best technology in the world is useless without people; almost every comprehensive independent school now has a Director of Technology. Many schools also find it essential to have a full-time "network administrator" to maintain the system.

    And that's not all. A good educational technology program requires trained faculty to integrate all this "stuff" into the curriculum in meaningful ways. Staff training, whether through an outside workshop or an "in-house" technology coordinator, is fundamental—and expensive.

    According to one technology seer, the day when "machines are the hand-maiden of cognition in the classroom" is not far off. Students at The Trevor Day School and at Hewitt tote Toshiba laptops to and from school in their backpacks and use the computer in every subject class as a "transparent tool"—as they would use pencil and paper. Students at many schools already have access to a school "intranet" or internal website that allows students to access homework assignments, read school notices, join in school conferences, communicate with faculty and send in their homework via e-mail.


Excerpted from The Manhattan Family Guide to Private Schools and Selective Public Schools by Victoria Goldman and Catherine Hausman. Copyright © 2001 by Soho Press, Inc.. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Table of Contents

Private School Locator Map xiv-xv
What's So Private About Private Schools? 1
Introduction 3
Selecting a School 16
The Application 20
The Interview 21
The ERB 26
Test Preparation 29
Do's and Don'ts 35
Thick or Thin 38
Advisory Services 40
Multicultural/Scholarship Programs 45
Applying for Financial Aid 49
Transportation 50
Social Organizations 51
Glossary 53
The Private Schools:
The Abraham Joshua Heschel School 61
The Abraham Lincoln School 64
The Alexander Robertson School 66
The Allen-Stevenson School 68
Bank Street School for Children 77
The Berkeley Carroll School 82
The Birch Wathen Lenox School 90
The Brearley School 94
Brooklyn Friends School 110
The Brooklyn Heights Montessori School 114
The Browning School 118
The Buckley School 121
The Caedmon School 133
The Calhoun School 138
The Cathedral School 149
The Chapin School 156
The Children's Storefront 164
City & Country School 166
Collegiate School 169
Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School 179
Convent of the Sacred Heart 189
Corlears School 200
The Dalton School 202
The Dwight/Anglo-American International Schools 214
The Ethical Culture Fieldston Schools 222
The Family School and The Family School West 236
Friends Seminary 239
The Geneva School of Manhattan 249
Grace Church School 252
The Hewitt School 255
Horace Mann School 262
La Scuola New York Guglielmo Marconi 273
Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School 275
Loyola School 281
Lycée Français 288
Manhattan Country School 291
Marymount School of New York 297
Metropolitan Montessori School 301
The Modern School 304
The Nightingale-Bamford School 306
The Packer Collegiate Institute 320
Poly Prep Country Day School 325
Professional Children's School 327
Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School 329
Ramaz 332
Regis High School 334
The Riverdale Country School 336
The Rodeph Sholom School 350
The Rudolf Steiner School 353
Saint Ann's School 358
St. Bernard's School 368
St. David's School 377
St. Hilda's & St. Hugh's School 385
St. Luke's School 387
The Solomon Schechter School 389
The Spence School 395
The Studio Elementary School 405
The Town School 410
Trevor Day School 419
Trinity School 428
United Nations International School 439
Village Community School 443
York Preparatory School 445
Additional Schools 449
Resources for Children with Learning Disabilities 451
Public School Options 461
Programs for Gifted and Talented Students 466
The Public High Schools 475
After-School Athletic and Other Programs 479
Other Resources 481
Index 489
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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2003

    Elitism Reigns Supreme on the Upper East Side

    This Book delivers (more of less) of what it promises--a synopsis of the conventional wisdom of unconventionally-wealthy people. This is in fact a legitimate purpose for a book. But as a Harvard grad who himself survived a Manhattan private school, I would advise you to make sure to supplement it with visits to the schools themselves. **Get some email address of TEACHERS THEMSELVES** and ask to speak with them on the phone. The information provided in this soft-cover book does not truly hit hard. It is a good starting place, but you might find the same level of analysis over a game of bridge. Enjoy the book! Cheers!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2002

    THE Book on Private Schools

    If you or your child is applying to private school, you must buy this comprehensive book. It is the only NYC guidebook that is not written by the schools themselves. (Two private school moms took on the task.) The Family Guide gives good basic information about each school, aiding families in deciding where to apply. As a New York City private school admissions consultant, I frequently recommend this book to my clients. It is a very useful starting point to the private school admissions process.

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