After many conversations with parents of 4- and 5-year-olds, long-time educator Scott Given saw the need for a new offering in the private elementary school arena in the Providence area.

“They wanted a school of the highest academic quality that would be substantially more affordable than the area’s most expensive independent schools,” Given said of parents he has talked with.

“They wanted a school that would be small and where every child would be known exceptionally well – a school focused on developing well-rounded children by delivering a thoughtful mix of more traditional academic teaching – math, reading, writing – and more progressive project-based learning, expeditionary learning, and play.”

Given said that he and his wife sought similar schooling attributes for their own young sons, ages 1 and 3. So, last July, he decided to move forward with developing a new private school that would fit the needs and wants of these parents.

The Croft School

The Croft School, named after one of Given’s most inspirational childhood teachers, will open this fall on the East Side of Providence.  It will initially serve kindergarten and first grade students, eventually growing into a 120-student K-5 school. Every classroom in The Croft School will have two experienced co-teachers and a 10:1 student-to-teacher ratio.

“The most important thing a school can do is build great relationships with its students and use those relationship as the basis for shaping an individualized program for each child, matching their needs and interests,” said Given. “Our close-knit environment and great student-to-teacher ratio allow us to do that.”

A history in education

In 2010, Given founded UP Education Network in Massachusetts – a non-profit school management organization. UP opened six schools serving 3,000 students after Massachusetts passed a law which created vehicles for non-profit organizations to restart low-performing schools as autonomous district schools. UP was named the National Education Reform Organization of the year in 2012.

Scott Given, founder of The Croft School

Before leading UP, Given was the principal of a charter public middle school in Boston and started his education career as a high school history teacher and athletics coordinator. Before working in education, Given served as a management consultant. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Business School.

Given feels that his new school’s quality of teachers will set The Croft School apart. “One thing I know how to do really well is hire and retain top 1% teachers who will leave a lasting impact on their students,” he said.

The school’s namesake

Given named the school after his Reading, MA, high school English teacher and track coach, Harold “Hal” Croft.

“More than anything else, Mr. Croft taught my classmates, teammates, and me that you could achieve far more than you ever think possible with hard work, determination, and collaboration with a team,” said Given. “He took an average athlete like myself and, by convincing me I could be great, he turned me into an all-star runner who could break 4:30 in the mile.”

First teacher

Cristina Smith, The Croft School’s first teacher

The school’s first teacher, Cristina Smith, is an experienced elementary school teacher who was educated at Stanford University.  Smith, who moved to the area in 2017, has taught in several elementary schools, most in California, and has experience as a Spanish-English bilingual class teacher. She has partnered with Given since September to develop and shape the school and its program.

“I am inspired by our school’s child-centered approach. It is a model that allows children to drive their own learning rather than being taught according to a standardized, rote plan,” said Smith. “The response from families has been remarkable to see. It has become immediately clear that the type of school we are building is something that is highly sought after in Providence.”

Location and tuition

The Croft School has identified a location for the school on the East Side of Providence.  Renovations on the school’s space will take place throughout the spring. As of the writing of this article, the school has limited kindergarten and first-grade seats still open for this fall, and the deadline to submit an online application is March 2.

For founding families, the school’s annual tuition is $15,215, a break from the normal $17,900 tuition. Extended day programs are available for an additional fee. Given said the school has implemented a scholarship program, Customized Tuition Solutions, to make it financially accessible to families and students across a range of economic circumstances.

Families seeking more information about The Croft School can to visit their website: