Tag Archives: admissions

Meet Our Staff: Mary O’Malley

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Welcome to our new Director of Admissions, Mary O’Malley!

A native of Morgan Park and graduate of Latin School of Chicago, Knox College, and Northwestern University, Ms. O’Malley has spent the majority of her career in independent schools, working to help students find the next phase of their education.

As Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at La Lumiere School, she built enrollment strategically across three diverse populations: day students, boarding students, and international students. She also worked as the Assistant Director of College Counseling at Latin School of Chicago and most recently served as a College-Persistence Counselor at Chicago Jesuit Academy, a full scholarship school for African-American young men on Chicago’s west side.

Q&A

Why did you choose to work at Morgan Park Academy?

It doesn’t take long to see why MPA is so special. I’ve been familiar with the school for my entire life; I grew up right around the corner, on Lothair Avenue, where my parents still live. I sought out this opportunity because I wanted to work at a school that was committed to educating the whole child. In today’s society, it’s easy to get ahead by taking others down. I firmly believe that a school community should stand for and teach a set of core values: integrity, respect, responsibility, diligence, kindness, cooperation, and service. Morgan Park Academy does this in spades. Continue reading

The Benefits of Small Classes

handYou may hear from public administrators, educational policy experts, and politicians who believe class size does not pose a variable for educational success. Despite these opinions, we at MPA believe small class sizes do matter; they make a difference. If we as educators and administrators are to guide and develop future leaders, it is imperative to understand the importance of class size in your child’s education. We would love to share with you five reasons why small class sizes do matter, especially at MPA.

  1. Reduced classes reduce the achievement gap between students of color.

According to a recent study by Northwestern University Associate Professor Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, smaller class sizes positively raise achievement success of minority students as well as students in lower socioeconomic levels. In fact, Schanzenbach discovered through Project STAR, that minority students in the primary grades benefitted most from smaller class sizes, with their achievements in reading and mathematics reflecting gains.

At MPA, we believe economic and ethnic diversity enriches the educational opportunity for all families and participation of a wide range of families is critical to the health of the school.

  1. Classes become communities.

Smaller class sizes allow students to fully engage with one another and their teacher, especially in the early childhood years. These deep relationships set a critical and solid foundation of education expectations. Small classes provide students a nurturing environment to share their thoughts and perspectives while creating lasting friendships.

At MPA, we encourage full-voiced participation and safe intellectual risk-taking, giving every student the opportunity to speak up and stand out.

  1. Students receive more one-on-one attention from the teacher.

Small class sizes provide qualified educators the opportunity to assess classes both as a whole and students as individuals. By providing students with more one-on-one attention from instruction to feedback, teachers helps students develop “useful habits and ideas about themselves and their abilities” (Biddle and Berliner).

At MPA, our teachers invite dialogue, infuse relevance into lessons, and forge meaningful connections with students because they know real learning takes real relationships.

  1. Teachers can tailor instruction individually.

By increasingly knowing their students on a personal basis through meaningful relationships, teachers with small classes can tailor instruction effectively for each child. When educators meet children where they are intellectually and help them achieve success, students experience a boost in confidence. This is also possible because teachers spend less time on classroom management and more time on instruction.

At MPA, we understand when children feel cared for and respected, they put forth more effort in the classroom and exceed expectations. In fact, our teachers are always talking to each other about new ideas for projects and how to present material to students in a more interesting way.

  1. Student outcomes are increasingly positive.

Students are receptive to their teachers, and with smaller class sizes, teachers have higher morale and more passion, which leads to increased outcomes. In fact, numerous studies proved the effects are strongest for elementary school students, whose standardized scores were higher when put in small classes compared to their counterparts in larger class.

At MPA, our Class of 2017 scored an average ACT Composite Score of 32 and our graduates have been admitted to 371 colleges and universities including 33 of the Top 50 in the United States.

In an era where class sizes seem to climb higher each year, MPA bucks the status quo and maintains small class sizes for our students. With an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio and an average class size of no more than 18 students, MPA allows students and faculty to encounter a positive, proactive learning environment which engages the whole child, inspires the independent learner, and prepares future global leaders to make a positive difference in the world.


By Lauren Hensel

Mrs. Hensel is our Associate Director of Admissions.

Why Choose an Independent School?

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One of the questions I hear most frequently from prospective parents is one that runs to the core of our school identity and mission:

What does it mean that Morgan Park Academy is an independent school?

All independent schools are built around serving a mission, which is always crafted to educate students under a certain philosophy. Although independent schools may be driven by different educational missions, they are all committed to providing a safe environment in which students can learn strong academic skills plus the importance of hard work, leadership, personal responsibility, and good citizenship.

The National Association of Independent Schools outlines some of the primary characteristics as:

  • High academic standards. Independent schools nurture intellectual curiosity, stimulate personal growth, and encourage critical thinking. A larger percentage of students at independent schools are enrolled in advanced courses than in public, parochial, and other private schools.
  • Small classes and individual attention. Independent schools have low student-teacher ratios that encourage close connections with students.
  • Excellent teachers. They usually teach in their areas of expertise and are passionate about what they do. With more autonomy within the classroom, teachers are able to develop a full understanding of how each student learns and what interests and motivates each individually.
  • Education for the whole child. Independent schools nurture not just students’ intellectual ability and curiosity but also their personal and social growth and civic conscience. Opportunities extend well beyond the classroom to athletic competitions, artistic pursuits, and school leadership experiences.
  • Inclusiveness. Schools maintain diverse and vibrant student communities and welcome and respect each family.
  • A community of parents who actively participate in their children’s education. Independent schools promote regular communication among students, parents, and teachers to ensure everyone is working toward the same goals for the student.
  • The opportunity to choose a school with a mission. You can select a school whose philosophy, values, and teaching approach is right for your child.
  • And most important: An education that will pay dividends for a lifetime.

Continue reading