Post # 7: What We’ve Learned. Independent School Educators.


Over the years we’ve experienced how the selective process of independent school teacher recruitment benefits overall classroom dynamics, curriculum, and student outcomes. Independent school educators tend to be passionate and empowered about teaching. They come prepared, not just with degrees but areas of expertise. They are enthusiastic and many share their outside interests through after-school programs like sports, theater, STEM, and social justice. I have had the pleasure of meeting many dynamic educators teaching at independent schools.

On Saturdays in early September, our middle and upper school hosts Parents Day. It mirrors what the school year will be like for students getting to class on time, approaching classroom curriculum and dynamics. The expectation is that teachers will wow us with their expertise in a subject and communication skills, reassuring parents that we’ve made the absolute right decision in investing in the school.

I often walk away from that day feeling confident, energized and exhausted. And, there are moments when teachers really wow us as parents. We envy the early learning environments teachers provide for our young children, and we are totally impressed by the level of engagement teachers offer our college prep students.

Families of color have extra expectations about teachers and classroom dynamics. Here are the ones that come top of mind. It is our hope they will inform other parents of color partnering with our schools.

* We want to see more faculty of color. They’re scarce. There are a number of reasons including lack of historical representation and salary. Yes, public school teachers are paid more than private (but, there are other valued benefits), unless there is a leadership role attached to it. Faculty of color is beneficial for all children.

*We also want to stand in solidarity with our valued faculty and administrators of color as we face similar experiences in predominantly white spaces.

*We want to make sure teachers see our kids for who they are. We want them to control the room for stereotype threat, microaggression, and invisibility.

*We want our kids to develop student-teacher connections that encourage independence, curiosity, and access to continued academic and leadership opportunities.

*We expect open door policy and accountability too.

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Post #6: What We’ve Learned. Parent Development.


As RIISE celebrates a decade of inspiring families of color to experience an independent school education, post #5: ‘What We’ve Learned’, has gone way back. This 2009, repost reminds parents of color and parents of children of color to show up whenever and however they can in independent school settings.

We know how important parent development and networking can be to an independent school journey. Staying in the loop about what is, and is not going on can be very supportive of children as they achieve academic success in the classroom and as they navigate socializing outside of the classroom.

Get it in where you can fit it in. But, show up. Perhaps, it is attending a presentation with educators on important academic programs or research. Maybe, it is going to a conference like POCC (your school may host you), or regional events like The Young Men of Color Symposium and Young Womyn of Strength Conference. Or, it may mean developing a parent affinity space and attending RIISE events. They are all powerful tools that can share perspectives and add value to the journey and to our schools. Read More »

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Post #5: What We’ve Learned. Many Journeys.

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Kyoto, Japan ’17

I almost lost my job because of travel.  Accompanying my then fifth-grade daughter on a school trip to the Monteverde Friends School in Costa Rica was not up for discussion. Could I let her miss out on global and ideas exchange with peers in Central America? No. So, along with other parents, I accepted the invitation to go on that school trip too. And, I kept my job!

As a lifestyle-collective of families of color and independent schools, we work together to raise up the next generation of student leaders, change makers, and influencers. As a result, RIISE often acknowledges the academic, social and emotional journey of our young scholars. But, we also have to recognize travel as another journey many students take at our schools.

As I reflect on the travel my daughter has had because of an independent school (Costa Rica, New Zealand, Japan), I am struck by the benefits of domestic and global travel: social & communication skills, tolerance for uncertainty, and real-life education.

Three-day weekends in Miami, The Hamptons, or far off exotic places for spring break can be the norm for many independent school families. So, this makes curriculum-based school travel for all students fantastic and equitable.

Here are a few things to keep in perspective when it comes to independent school travel:

1.) Before graduating make sure your child experiences travel with a social justice school trip to Detroit, for example, or exchange abroad. It will broaden your child’s horizon.

2.) Don’t assume you can’t afford it. The cost may be scaled by your school based on affordability.

3.) Don’t be afraid to let your child, at an appropriate age, venture into the world without you. Other benefits and insight of a travel curriculum, like cultural and language immersion, can add depth to education.

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Post #4: What We’ve Learned. Independent defined.

Kerry Marshall’s SOB, SOB


def: self-governing: not requiring or relying on something else: a person of independent means

To be enrolled in an independent school as a family of color is the very essence of independence. It is the act of being ambitious and brave. It is an act of non-conformity.

The collective desired outcome is that our children-our greatest investment will take full advantage of the excellent educational opportunities independent schools offer. We believe the future to be bright for our kids, equipped with knowledge and experiences to have better control of their lives, to be self-sufficient, compassionate human beings who add value to communities.

Independent is also defined as showing a desire for freedom.
Many families of color have long felt that a quality education is the only way to free oneself from the many social justice ills marginalized people face. However, it is no protection from the knowledge of the white gaze in predominantly white spaces challenging our very beings, in search of excellence in education.

An independent school education is spectacular! I can’t say that enough. I know because as enrolled parents it continues to be a worthwhile investment we are making with our children of color. Though, I don’t know if that would be the case -if we could escape the judgment of just being, if we did not speak to the ability to be oneself, not invisible, but recognized and acknowledged for the unique perspective and valuable culture we bring.

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Post #3: What We’ve Learned. Getting In.

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This is a perfect time of the year to begin to research independent schools. To be truthful, the earlier you start the better. Kick it off with a complimentary 30-minute RIISE consultation, and attend various Spring admission events.

Having spent over a decade in an independent school and through the observations of others with RIISE, we’ve learned that ‘getting in’ is never really fair or equal. If you stare at it long enough you’ll begin to observe the harsh realities. But, don’t be disheartened, push ahead with confidence. It is worth it. Just keep in mind that the real competition is not an individual, per se, but a system that must thrive.

In its short run at Lincoln Center, the satirical play, Admissions promotes nervous laughter from a mainly white audience, who observe an all-white cast offer a safer space to decry the pernicious influence of race and class.

Ironically, the features that make an independent school desirable are the ones that make it tough to get in. For example, small class sizes narrow the chances of getting in. Other desired features like access to leading and innovative curriculum, resources, faculty, impressive physical space, and college prep, present another barrier to entry, cost.

Although independent schools offer significant financial aid awards to attract capable, talented and high-achieving students whose families could not afford it otherwise, it is not enough to create equitable and inclusive communities. There are families of color that do not need financial support to attend an independent school. But, as a result of other historic and systemic injustices, most do.

The intersections of race, wealth gaps, and the high cost of tuition challenge equity and inclusion at independent schools. School missions appear to be meritocratic, but privilege often prevails.

We are lured by the promise of academic and future successes, so we persist by investing our cultural and financial capital in predominantly white, pK-12, institutions to help secure better social and economic outcomes for generations to come. Independent schools are flawed but overall they are transformative spaces that most families of color don’t regret.

Perhaps, the opinions in yesterday’s Sunday Review, How To Level The College Playing Field, can transform independent schools too.

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Post #2: What We’ve Learned. Preparing for College.

Whoo-hoo! My daughter is completing her junior year at an independent school, and, I am absolutely thrilled to help support her search for a great college. Over the years, we’ve received sage advice from those who’ve already grabbed the brass ring. Here are three things we’ve learned that should take the edge off of applying to colleges.

1. Hands down, an independent school more than adequately prepares students for the competitive, and depending on the college, highly selective admissions process.

2. College Placement Offices run a tight ship in order to post impressive college destination lists. This does not mean that students and parents don’t have the final say. What it does mean is that independent schools greatly benefit from getting students into great colleges.

3. There will be less anxiety for all if we let our children steer their own ship. It is up to them to choose an HBCU (a great episode of Black-ish), a small liberal arts college, a highly-selective art school, a university a thousand miles away from home, or one that’s in the heart of a city and has no core curriculum.

I should add another. Standardized tests still matter. Unless the school is test-optional early introduction and preparation can only help.

*Check out our affiliate offer from TestRocker!


Of course, there is more to consider when looking at colleges. You’ll find this throw-back post helpful!

**After posting this blog, the NYT Opinion section published this article How to Level the College Playing Field, adding a much-needed voice to the wealth gap and affording college.






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Post #1: What We’ve Learned. Celebrating Ten Years.

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Post #1

If you are a family of color thinking about, or already enrolled in independent schools, this post is for you! Attending an independent school can have huge returns on education, networks, extraordinary experiences, and skills that can have a positive effect on the future of families and communities.

During the past decade, RIISE has learned that although there is diversity among families of color, many of us experience similar challenges navigating independent schools. The challenges are more systemic than they are individual and despite the virtues, bias does exist in elite educational spaces. We must be present if we want to be seen, heard and advance the issues. We want what we’ve learned to inspire more families of color to apply and fully experience independent schools if they pay $1,000 or $51,000 a year to attend.

As my kids moved from one division to the next, I remember a mom sharing how important it was to introduce myself, my thoughts about my children, and my expectations for them to each teacher, at the same time. With some scheduling assistance from the dean’s office, I was able to pull off thoughtfully advocating for my kids with teachers who, regardless of intention, may have implicit biases that can affect my child of color in the classroom.

1. Be present ahead of time to apply to independent schools.
2. Being present is crucial to the overall success of our kids.
3. Being present means showing up as often as possible, building relationships, being curious and uncomfortable.
4. Like our kids, we should ask really good questions, put in the time, and take risks.
5. Sharing our diverse perspectives brings value to our schools and helps our kids be ready and resilient.

Look out for Post #2 tomorrow, before midnight!

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Check Out These Awesome April Events!


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Historical Roots of and Strategies to Address the “N-word” and Other Bias Language | RSVP


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Lynne Maureen Hurdle Headshot Fearless Conversations: How to Better Engage in The Art of Difficult Conversations? Why do we avoid those difficult conversations? Perhaps, we put them off because we don’t have the language to effectively respond to things. Maybe things don’t go so well when we do engage each other, our children, or schools with difficult issues regarding gender, race, class, or religion. We might not even have these conversations at all because we fear it will only make difficult topics worse. Current events make it nearly impossible to avoid crucial and challenging dialogue. But, how can we be successful in engaging in difficult conversations? Conflict resolution strategist, Lynne Hurdle-Price will bring her ‘Lynnergy’ to guide us in this interactive development workshop on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at School of the Holy Child-Rye. Please RSVP to by Friday, April 13, 2018


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TIME: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM



This annual youth conference is for self-identified Latin@ / Latinx adults and students in 5th – 12th grades who attend/work in a regional independent school. We are a pan-ethnic group, made up of the range of people from any of the twenty-two Spanish speaking countries, bi-, mono-, or multi-lingual, lgbtq+ inclusive, who acknowledge the African diaspora and indigenous cultures within our roots and his/her stories.  The cost for attending this conference is $20 per student and/or per adult. LENYIS is committed to creating an inclusive conference so please reach out if your school cannot make this fee.



LOGO_Test_Rocker_Final_Transparent_01   Upcoming FREE events/consultations for RIISE families:

Complimentary 1-on-1 consultation for SSAT/SHSAT/ISEE/PSAT/SAT/ACT (Click to Schedule) Includes Diagnostic Test, Score Prediction, Analysis and Personalized Study Plan.


High School Admissions Testing Workshop (Click to save your spot – only 10 available)

Date: Sunday, April 22nd Time: 2pm – 3:30pm Location: Lower Manhattan – exact location TBD Who should attend: Parents of children who will be applying to HS in the Fall of 2018. Children are welcome.

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Preparing To Rock The Test? SSAT | SHSAT | ISEE | PSAT | SAT | ACT

RIISE has searched long and hard for a high quality, results driven test preparation resource for our families, and we are excited to announce that we have decided to collaborate with NYC DOE approved TestRocker, Inc. Be ready, so you don’t have to get ready.


About TestRocker: 

The founders of TestRocker, two females of color (Notre Dame and Harvard grads) and their mother (educator with 18+ years of experience), created the company 6 years ago in NYC. Since then, they have helped 10,000+ students prepare successfully for high school and college admissions tests. While they have students in 40+ countries, they are headquartered in our area and have created a bespoke high touch program exclusively for families such as yours. In the coming weeks, you will be able to meet with them in person or virtually to get all of your test prep and high school/college admissions questions answered.


Students from the following NYC schools have raised their scores with TestRocker: Horace Mann | Trevor Day | Brooklyn Friends Riverdale | Bronx HS of Science | Stuyvesant HS  Bard | Trinity | Goddard | Harlem Village Academy  Lower Manhattan Arts Academy | James Madison Brooklyn Tech | Leadership HS | New Utrecht HS Pace HS | HS of Fashion Industries | Manhattan Hunter Science HS | Park East | Baruch College Campus HS | Urban Assembly School of Design & Construction | Aviation High School | Professional Performing Arts School | Eleanor Roosevelt HS  Laguardia HS | Stuyvesant HS | Latin School


Programs offered: Personalized online and in-person classes for SSAT | SHSAT | ISEE | PSAT | SAT | ACT


Upcoming FREE events/consultations for RIISE families:


Complimentary 1-on-1 consultation for SSAT/SHSAT/ISEE/PSAT/SAT/ACT (Click to Schedule)
Includes Diagnostic Test, Score Prediction, Analysis and Personalized Study Plan.


High School Admissions Testing Workshop (Click to save your spot – only 10 available)

Date: Sunday, April 22nd

Time: 2pm – 3:30pm

Location: Lower Manhattan – exact location TBD

Who should attend: Parents of children who will be applying to HS in the Fall of 2018. Children are welcome.


*For RIISE families only.


We have negotiated an exclusive price with them for RIISE students, so make sure you mention you’re from RIISE when you speak with them.


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