NAIS Research: 2023 Hot Issues Survey: Challenges and Opportunities for Independent Schools

By Margaret Anne Rowe and Joseph Corbett
NAIS Research Analysts

NAIS Research: 2023 Hot Issues SurveyHelping a generation of young people find their purpose has always been a tall order, but never before have so many schools been tasked with doing more for their students with less capacity and support than they are now. As students recover from learning loss and face a continuing mental health crisis, fewer adults are entering and remaining in the teaching profession to help guide them forward. Heavy inflation after years of tuition increases have left many families unable to pay for school and many schools unable to pay for teachers and programs. Meanwhile, political polarization and societal divisions have led to schools being placed under a microscope with every decision seeming to lead someone to speak up against it. 

Through it all, schools are expected to offer more options and services—at a time when many need to pare down—or lose traction in the face of competitors.

To better understand the nuances of the myriad, interrelated issues independent schools are currently facing, NAIS surveyed heads of school in fall 2022, with 310 responding. Heads were given five open-ended questions that asked them to think about challenges to their school stemming from resources, management, programming, external forces, and any miscellaneous issues. Though the challenges (and triumphs) they shared were as diverse and varied as independent schools themselves, five main themes emerged.

Top Challenges Identified by Heads

This report examines challenges and opportunities in each of those five areas, breaks down how survey results vary by geographic region and school type, offers key questions to help schools address these issues within their unique context, and provides additional resources to help school leaders understand where they are now and where they can go next.

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