The five topics independent school leaders were most curious about in the past year


The five topics independent school leaders were most curious about in the past year

Each year, EAB’s Dedicated Advisors pass scores of questions from independent school leaders to our AskEAB team. Our K-12 researchers track down answers to each question using a combination of proprietary research, external publications like academic journals, and consultation with EAB’s subject matter experts—all in 10 days or less.

Now, we’re sharing the five topics that were top of mind for independent school leaders over the past year (July 2022 through June 2023).

AskEAB's five most popular research requests in 2022-2023


*The "Other" category includes a wide range of additional questions on topics like purchasing various technologies, surveys, and emergency weather drills.

1. How to effectively manage people: Faculty, staff, and school leadership

Independent school leaders are responsible for a host of management duties, including faculty recruitment, professional development, performance evaluations, and determining compensation, so it’s no surprise that people management was our most requested topic. Our researchers responded to dozens of requests for research, resources, or networking opportunities regarding managing faculty and staff, all of which we provide to meet partner needs. We found several categories of research were requested most often within this topic area:

  • Human resources. The most popular request regarding people management is for research and tools related to “human resources.” This includes best practices in hiring, interview guides, and examples of job postings.
  • Faculty and staff professional development. AskEAB received numerous questions about supporting new faculty, developing new skills among existing faculty, and optimizing schedules for professional development.
  • Faculty morale, faculty recruitment, and faculty compensation. Beyond the day-to-day work of developing and evaluating talent, independent school leaders also submitted questions related to faculty wellness and mental health, developing a faculty pipeline for hiring, and compensating faculty, among others.

People management requests by subtopic


To improve your faculty recruitment efforts and grow your candidate pipeline, AskEAB researchers are available to audit your employment webpages to ensure they align with EAB’s independent school hiring best practices. Reach out to your Dedicated Advisor to ask about EAB’s Attracting Top Talent in Today’s Market Audit!

2. Resources for building pipelines: Enrollment and advancement

Growing a pipeline is never easy—whether it’s recruiting new students and families or engaging new alumni in giving, advancement and enrollment were top of mind for independent school leaders this year. Our researchers responded to numerous requests for research on advancement and enrollment, including:

  • Advancement: A highly popular topic, AskEAB researchers compiled research on capital campaigns, alumni engagement, and building connections to schools for independent school leaders this year.
  • Enrollment: Independent school leaders still regularly requested information on general enrollment trends, enrollment management, and family retention.

Building pipelines: Interest in advancement and enrollment by percentage


To ensure potential donors have a seamless experience when donating online, EAB created a set of advancement webpage best practices. Our AskEAB team will audit your advancement webpages to see how well they incorporate EAB’s advancement webpage best practices. Ask your Dedicated Advisor about EAB’s Website Optimization Audit.

3. Supporting students

This year, AskEAB saw a dramatic increase in partner interest in research on supporting students, including requests around student stress, mental health, and belonging. As independent school leaders settle back into their “new normal” post-COVID-19, many are observing students who feel more anxious, engage in risky behaviors, or may even have experienced trauma. Leaders are looking for ways to support their student bodies beyond the traditional college application or exam anxiety to create a school environment where students feel supported and prepared to succeed. Our researchers found three student support topics arose most frequently:

  • Student wellness: Independent school leaders were more interested in student wellness than any other student support topic (44% of all requests in this topic area). Our researchers received questions on wellness broadly speaking, as well as on school counselors, advisory programming and adult mentorship, and post-COVID trauma.
  • Learning differences: Our AskEAB researchers also received requests for information on supporting students with learning disabilities or neurodivergence more generally.
  • Student behavior: Additionally, while such requests were far more frequent from our public-school partners, some independent schools also approached our AskEAB team with questions about handling student behavioral issues in the classroom. These behavior requests ranged from inquiries about general behavior management systems to questions about specific social-emotional learning tools.

Student wellness requests by subtopic

All requests fell into one of the below categories.


Having noted the substantial increase in interest this year, AskEAB researchers examined the literature on six pillars of wellness curriculum: mental health, physical health, identity, sexuality, social-emotional learning, and digital citizenship, with the goal of identifying the ideal wellness curriculum content and teaching strategies for each pillar. See our complete report on all six key facets of student wellness here.

4. Logistics: School policies and management

Every day, independent school leaders need to make a range of complex decisions in order to effectively run their schools, and much of EAB’s recent syndicated research (such as our Independent School Organizational Design Resource Center) focuses on aspects of independent school operations and management. As such, independent school leaders regularly approach EAB with questions about school policies and management, and this year was no exception. Our researchers received school management questions in three main areas:

  • Schedules: This year, independent school leaders asked our researchers about school schedules—both the yearly school calendar and the daily class schedule.
  • Tuition: Our researchers also responded to questions about tuition, ranging from financial aid trends to tuition-setting strategies.
  • Strategic planning: Independent school leaders also requested information related to strategic planning, including key performance indicators (KPIs) and DEIB plans.

School policies and management requests by subtopic


To connect leaders with the resources specific to their unique strategic needs, the AskEAB team offers our Strategic Plan Resource Review, where school leaders share the priorities of their strategic plan with EAB, and our researchers share proprietary EAB research covering topics on each priority for their review. Ask your Dedicated Advisor about our Strategic Plan Resource Review!

5. Academic programming

As in previous years, academic programming continues to be one of independent school’s top concerns, though this year leaders showed particular interest in grading practices, as well as in assessment and curriculum.

  • Grading: In the post-COVID-19 era, many independent school leaders are wondering if traditional grading systems are the best way to capture student learning and mastery of content. Additionally, according to EAB research on equitable grading policies for school districts, test-optional admissions place a higher premium on student grades. By redesigning grading policies to reduce subjectivity and increase academic accuracy, schools can improve students’ chances of being competitive applicants to colleges and universities.
  • Curriculum: Our researchers received a wide variety of requests regarding curriculum, including information about reviewing curriculum, and evidence-based curriculum recommendations on several topics (e.g., health, English language arts).
  • Assessment: Additionally, our independent school partners asked several questions about what makes student assessment meaningful for students and how to assess student soft skills.

Academic programming requests by subtopic

All requests fell into one of the below categories.


To benchmark your school’s grading practices against best practices in equitable grading, use EAB’s Equitable Grading Audit. While first developed for public school districts, the key criteria apply equally to independent schools.

If you’re interested in hearing more about any of the above topics, reach out to your dedicated advisor to submit a question to AskEAB!

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