The Schools for Advanced Studies is a new network of public charter schools that is applying to open its first school in Northwest Arkansas in the fall of 2024. While a new network and a new school model, the schools will be managed by BASIS Educational Ventures, a nationally known and prominent manager of some of the absolute best charter schools in the United States. The location for the first campus in Arkansas is still to be determined, but the Bentonville area is the primary target location.
If approved by the Arkansas Dept of Education, the Bentonville School for Advanced Studies will be a 5ththrough 12th Grade school, accepting applications later in 2023 for the 2024-25 school year.
While more details will be released in the coming months – including specific curriculum information, academic policies, sample bell schedules, and so forth – the school will be grounded in the following Core Pillars:
World Liberal Arts – At its core, the School for Advanced Studies is a liberal arts school in the fullest since of the phrase. Students study math and science at an accelerated pace, but not at the expense of deep and penetrating study of literature and philosophy; fine arts classes are mandated at levels well above the state requirements, but we don’t skimp on Physical Education; Grammar, logic and rhetoric are crucial, but so too are computer science, coding and engineering; Flannery O’Connor and Shakespeare are found in our core reading list, but alongside Achebe and Confucius.
A Highly and Multi-Qualified Faculty – Our faculty are not just highly qualified in their main area of instruction, but they are men and women who are deeply committed to cross-disciplinary learning and teaching. We expect our teaching professionals to add new areas of expertise to their resume, becoming not just highly qualified in one area, but in many. We believe that faculty should teach many different courses over their tenure and that this keeps them fresh and invigorated.
Playful and Liberated Student Culture – While we have standards of decorum and dress codes, we decidedly do not have school uniforms. Our culture allows students to freely express themselves, and we are intentional about creating a feedback loop in the system so that students respect one and other for who they uniquely are. Our hallways and classrooms are playful, our culture is quirky, and our spirit is contagious. We expect our oldest students – our juniors and seniors – to be campus leaders, giving them the freedom to lead and to discover the accountability that leadership entails.
An Emphasis on Primary Texts and Shared Inquiry – Throughout the core curriculum, beginning in 5thGrade and through middle and high school years, our students learn about themselves, the world around them, and the geographical and historical worlds far away from them, by reading and discussing primary texts. The Core Reading List is not taken simply from ancient works of the Western Canon, but contains texts and excerpts from throughout the world and throughout time, up to the present day. While the text is primary, the real primacy in in the discussion of the ideas contained within. Students are trained and expected to be full participants in seminar. And shared inquiry is not limited merely to literature or philosophy texts, but forms an important foundation even in our math curriculum, where students explore mathematical concepts within the context of a series of complex word problems that make up the Exeter Mathematics program.
Academic Acceleration for All – We are passionate about our conviction to high academic expectations for all students, regardless of what and where they have studied prior to attending our school. Our middle school program is accelerated to be sure, but not inaccessible. All of our students enroll in AP courses in high school and all students complete a set of graduation requirements well above the state minimum requirements, preparing them for collegiate study at the finest colleges and universities in the world.
High School “Concentrations” – Once through our 5-8, program, students choose an area of concentration for high school. They may concentrate on fine arts, literature and philosophy, or math and science. While they will continue to pursue advanced course work in all fields, they will take additional courses in their area of concentration, much like they will with their major when they get to college. In this way, our theater kids can focus on writing plays, our mathematically inclined students can take more APs in Calculus, those who are philosophically oriented can spend more time analyzing profound texts, and so forth. School should be challenging, and a true liberal arts education is broad in scope, but true intellectual joy blossoms when a student is allowed to develop and pursue their passion, and in so doing, discover themselves.
A Transformative and Transition-to-College Focused Senior Year – In a real sense, the 5-11 program at the School for Advanced Studies is preparation for the Senior Year, which is itself a transitional year to college. Our students work daily with a college counselor, they pursue advanced course work in their area of concentration as well as remaining core classes, they participate in a semester-long community service project, and they are seminar leaders with younger high school students for school wide seminars in a curriculum called “The New American Conversation.” A Senior’s year culminates with their Senior Oral Defense, where the student researches, presents upon, and discusses focused topics related to their specific area of concentration.
At its core, the School for Advanced Studies is a liberal arts school in the fullest since of the phrase. Students study math and science at an accelerated pace, but not at the expense of deep and penetrating study of literature and philosophy; fine arts classes are mandated at levels well above the state requirements, but we don’t skimp on Physical Education; Grammar, logic and rhetoric are crucial, but so too are computer science, coding and engineering; Flannery O’Connor and Shakespeare are found in our core reading list, but alongside Achebe and Confucius.