The school STATES that it emphasizes the development of character, which is quite rare. How they do it is a marvel of subtle social engineering (to use the term in a positive way). Students have each other's back and are supportive of one another. There are no outcasts here. The school is an open environment that helps build trust, responsibility and independence. I saw this as soon as I came to visit.
Some of the better teachers I have seen in math, science, history and language. The classes are small, participatory environments much like the classes and seminars your son or daughter will encounter at a good college. The teachers teach to the students, not the test. They are incredibly approachable, friendly, and sincerely have the interests of their students in mind.
Speaking to the 8th grade - the homework is manageable, effective and always on point. You will not be getting throw-away mimeographed sheets here but substantial homework organized around reading and book assignment related to the substance of the class.
I have a son in Wardlaw-Hartridge in 8th grade headed into 9th. From the moment he walked in he felt this school was for him. This is a remark you will here over and over again at WH. If you are looking for (a) a moderately sized private school that emphasizes small core classes in a competitive but highly friendly environment (b) a school that equally emphasizes character development and social awareness (c) competitive but not brutally competitive sports ranging from baseball to soccer to tennis to swimming and (d) a group of teachers that know precisely how to teach to the student instead of teaching to the test, (e) a socially friendly, open and manageable school for your child instead of a cut-throat back-stabbing private school that will leave them no better off, and probably worse, in the future, and (f) a school that emphasizes diversity as a profound learning experience, then this is for you.
My child attended the lower school only. The school is small and has a very diverse population which I liked. The administrative staff is very nice and professional and there is a lot of parental involvement here. The kids are bright and are exposed to a lot of interesting subject matter with hands on learning which my child really liked. The school is not for everyone and I felt that the basic skills like grammar and math were rushed through in order to spend more time engaged in projects. Especially after third grade there is little to no grammar taught. Even though these projects were interesting, I felt the school had the priorities of elementary school education flipped upside down with projects taking more class time instead of practicing basic skills in a creative way. As a result much time was spent at home reinforcing basic skills along with the hw and a lot of stress on the kids. The teachers do a good job at assessing your child's needs and progress in the school, but you will not find teachers coming in early or staying later for tutoring if your child needs extra help like in a public school. Many teachers and staff have their kids in the school and discipline is a big problem with some of the students. There are little to no consequences for bad behavior and the kids get away with a lot. If I had to do over I would not have had my child attend this school. My child learned a lot of interesting things here and is a whiz at the computer, but I see now that these early years are so important to master the basic skills needed and I feel my child missed out on a lot of them.
Our child has been a student in the lower school for four years. Wardlaw Hartridge is excellent for nurturing and bringing out the best in each student. The school has a strong curriculum that helps each student develop a love for learning.