2017 Best Private and Independent Schools in San Diego

San Diego's top private schools are ready and eager

Private School Class Room

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San Diego’s Top Private Schools 

When it comes to your child’s education, there’s no such thing as settling. The foundations for a successful future are set in youth, and it all starts with a strong and well-rounded education. The top private schools in San Diego have a deep understanding of teaching fundamentals, and they get to know their students one-on-one. Students are introduced to an array of studies and opportunities—everything from arts to athletics to technology, and more.

It’s never the wrong time to start thinking about your child’s future. San Diego’s top private schools are already there and eager to transform young minds into thoughtful, engaged and curious people who can impact society and help shape the future to come.


Maranatha Christian Schools

Maranatha Christian Schools is a dynamic community of students, teachers and alumni who are making a difference in the world. With an emphasis on college prep, Maranatha inspires progress and advancement in excellence as students move forward from one grade to the next. While building a strong academic foundation, students can also experience a culture of excitement. They may have the chance to perform on stage, compete in athletics, play in a band, or even design a robot. A genuine love for others permeates our culture, and that extends beyond our campus through a variety of student community service opportunities. Though there is a relaxed and friendly environment, our teachers are devoted to academic excellence. Our qualified professional staff helps students prepare to succeed in some of the finest colleges in the country. MCS has over 25 years of experience in education—we inspire students to use their knowledge and talents to make the world a better place and to serve God in every area of their lives.

Preschool-Grade 12
9050 Maranatha Drive, San Diego, CA 92127
858-759-9737 maranathachristianschools.org


The Bishop’s School

The long road to self-discovery starts early at The Bishop’s School, where students are encouraged to try new things and follow their passions. From academics to athletics to the arts, there’s an expansive array of activities and subjects that introduce students to exciting new possibilities during this formative period in life. A student’s potential is cultivated and developed in a welcoming community that strives to see everyone not only succeed but also discover themselves in the process.

It all begins in middle school, where in addition to a full docket of math, English, history, world language and science courses, students experience two elective rotations for P.E. and art, allowing them to get a brief taste of the options available at Bishop’s. Middle schoolers try sports like football, tennis and water polo during the day, with the opportunity to join teams after school. The arts rotation is similar, letting students explore vocal and instrumental music, theater, dance, visual art and digital media.

“Lessons learned from athletics go far beyond the field or court, so we encourage participation by offering teams for all levels of athletes,” says Athletics Director Joel Allen. “We don’t want students standing on the side watching. Creating an environment that allows middle school students to feel comfortable putting the first foot forward to try something new, that’s our goal.”

In upper school, a student is able to pursue their newly-discovered passions with in-depth, focused classes and extracurricular activities. The inclusive culture at Bishop’s makes it easy to get involved.

Academically, Bishop’s provides students with the necessary tools to develop their skills and inspire purpose in themselves and others. The rigorous curriculum includes unique courses at the Advanced Placement level and beyond, as well as cross-disciplinary study. For example, Bishop’s Performing Arts Department Chair Christine Micu says that many of the performance programs work with disciplines like history and English to provide a contextual element and richer understanding of a play or song. “The arts are the one place that I believe incorporate all of the other disciplines,” says Micu. “You can't-do a historical piece without talking about the culture in which it was created. It has to happen within a cultural context.”

Part of instilling cross-disciplinary learning at the school is incorporating STEM/STEAM fields into classrooms and activities. Wu Tsai Endowed Chairholders Lani Keller and Alex Cabral, who teach science and computer science respectively, are leading the faculty in creating a plan for building a STEAM program at Bishop’s. Student interest and achievement in robotics and coding has blossomed, and the two are harnessing that ebullient energy and forming collaborative, creative spaces for students to build and learn.

One such plan is a new maker space, which will include tech-driven machinery like 3D printers or laser engravers. Keller and Cabral hope that the space could be used by all faculty and students at Bishop’s for educational gain, artistic expression or simply curious exploration.

Ultimately, The Bishop’s School is creating the kind of community where students are free to discover who they are and fearless about deciding who they want to become. Head of School Aimeclaire Roche believes Aristophanes said it best and quoted his inspiring words at the start of the school year: “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

Grades 6-12
7607 La Jolla Blvd., La Jolla, CA
(858) 459-4021 bishops.com


Pacific Ridge School

Since the world outside the classroom sees no divide among subjects and learning material, why should life inside the classroom? At Carlsbad’s Pacific Ridge School, students in grades 7-12 gain an education with the impact and relevance found when course subjects intersect. Integrated with meaningful discussion, the course study creates a well-rounded learning experience and fully developed graduates ready for college.

Pacific Ridge student voices are heard and honed through the Harkness teaching method. Classrooms employ the use of Harkness tables, essentially large oval-shaped tables, which seat 15 students side-by-side for discussion-based learning. The design of it is simple but effective—every student gets a front row seat to the lesson and participation.

“Harkness is a method of teaching where the teacher guides, but the students lead,” says Elizabeth Grossman, the 11th and 12th grade Academic Dean; she also teaches English at Pacific Ridge. As a practitioner of the Harkness method, Grossman has found that students take ownership of the material they study and are highly engaged in the classroom.

The benefit lies in the result: deeper learning. Grossman has found that her students engage in a higher level of discourse and richer conversation due to the amount of practice they get in public speaking every day. “[College reps] are just amazed by our students and their ability to articulate,” Grossman says. The extensive discussions held in the classroom involve daily practice in critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration skills.

In fact, collaboration is another stone in the school’s foundation of academic excellence. One teacher facilitating collaboration is Richard Masland, who leads the multi-faceted, multi-subject STEAM projects. The projects are as diverse as they are fascinating. For example, Masland melds podcasting and history for a class project that invites students to take a formal research paper and transform it into an auditory medium. He also co-teaches a section on computer programming in the Life Science classroom and helps the foreign language classes produce TV segments. The collaborative efforts all have a decidedly tech twist, but he also helps facilitate projects among the arts as well as more traditional school subjects.

“As an extension of the Harkness philosophy, the projects are designed for all grades to leverage technology and an interdisciplinary approach,” Masland says. Interdisciplinary study is something that Pacific Ridge fosters on its campus and part of what makes the education here a well-rounded academic experience for students. “Ultimately, I think that both this collaborative learning model and the Harkness method are designed to simulate the world outside of schooling,” Masland adds. “Interdisciplinary teams work well together and I think that encouraging students to use their whole brain all the time is something that will serve them in the future.”

If the teaching style at Pacific Ridge sounds different and exciting, that’s because it is. The nontraditional methods melded with traditional methods effectively prepare students for a purposeful life, even beyond the classroom. Students learn how to adapt in an ever-changing world, to collaborate and ultimately to solve new problems through critical thinking and relevant hands-on practice. Learning doesn’t have to occur in a vacuum, and if the world is going to evolve, teaching should be evolving too.

Learn more about Pacific Ridge School and its mission to foster a community of academic excellence, ethical responsibility and global engagement at the upcoming Open House on November 4th, 1pm. Visit pacificridge.org.

Grades 7-12
6269 El Fuerte Street, Carlsbad, CA 92009
760.448.9820, pacificridge.org


Santa Fe Christian Schools


Academic excellence is not just part of the mission statement at Santa Fe Christian Schools (SFC) − it’s a way of life. Applying a rigorous curriculum combined with a biblical world view, the faculty and staff create an engaging environment that encourages students to succeed.

The model for success works, and the Department of Education recognizes the school’s dedication to learning and faith; both the Lower School and Middle School were named National Blue Ribbon Schools. In 2015, Santa Fe Christian Middle School was also recognized as an Exemplary High Performing National Blue Ribbon School, one of only two private schools in California to earn such a distinction.

“Our vision at Santa Fe Christian is to be a model for world-class Christian education, and receiving the National Blue Ribbon as an Exemplary High Performing School is a significant step toward that goal,” says Todd Deveau, Principal of SFC Middle School.

Students at SFC are adequately challenged in lower, middle and upper school, and they build Christ-centered relationships along the way that pave the way for success in both college and life. The Upper School proudly announces a 100% acceptance rate of its graduates to 4-year colleges.

Through arts, athletics, academics and a Christian community, students are gaining skills for life. Santa Fe Christian Schools strives to challenge, inspire and guide students as they discover their interests, develop talents and deepen their Christian faiths.

Through weekly chapel, frequent retreats, and yearly missions trips, the school prides itself on strengthening faith, friendship and moral integrity. Head of School Dr. Tom Bennett states, “Each day our dedicated faculty continues to build on our legacy of academic excellence while preparing students to be Christian leaders of the future.”

Kindergarten-Grade 12
838 Academy Drive, Solana Beach, CA