School Model and Curriculum
The School for Advanced Studies – Bentonville Campus is grounded in the following 4 Core Pillars:
- The New American Conversation – As a fundamental part of our academic mission, students and faculty at all levels engage in a program of communal textual analysis of works fundamental to the American experience in its many facets – works that are broadly conceived to include literature, film, music, art, and more. The goal of this program is to engage students in discussion and debate, encouraging them to take an active and responsible role in the ongoing conversation about what it means to be an American. The process of engagement will take precedence over students coming to any particular set of conclusions, and it is expected that perspectives will change as students grow, develop, and are exposed to an ever-expanding set of influential works. Examples could include anything from the Declaration of Independence or The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, to Citizen Kane or the novels of John Steinbeck, to the music of Aaron Copeland or the early blues master, Robert Johnson.
- Our Global Intellectual Inheritance – We provide a true liberal arts experience with deep study of seminal and foundational readings across all core academic disciplines, including math and science. Students at the Arkansas Schools for Advanced Studies will grapple, even struggle, with ideas. They will read books, watch films, and listen to music representing diverse perceptions that will challenge and excite them. Core classes at the Arkansas Schools for Advanced Studies engage in probing dialectical analysis of texts. Students and teachers work in partnership, seeking deep understanding of complex ideas. Thoughtful, rigorous dialogue will engender divergent, multi-perspectival thinking.
- Through core reading lists which might include the works of Shakespeare, Chinua Achebe, or Toni Morrison, the scientific studies of Galileo or Watson and Crick, documentaries of Werner Herzog, or the classical music of south India, students will gain a broad outlook on the modern, connected, multifaceted world. Students at the Arkansas Schools for Advanced Studies will engage with seminal works from across time and geography that illustrate the inherent value of varied lived human experiences.
- Every teacher is a student: a student of their content area, a student of knowledge and skills more broadly, a student of teaching, and a student of their students
- Polymaths and autodidacts – leaders of the Arkansas Schools for Advanced Studies will literally scour the globe to hire teachers who are not simply experts in their fields of study, but who are also intellectually voracious and omnivorous. We find educators who are steeped in their content areas and deeply interested in the world: the English teacher who loves astronomy; the math teacher who plays guitar in a Beatles cover band; the history teacher who also has a deep love of ornithology.
- Teachers and staff are models for our students on how to be thoughtful, compassionate, active, and engaged citizens of their community, state, country, and the world. Teachers will bring their thoughtful perspectives to the classroom, encouraging students to do the same, and engage in vigorous and rigorous exchange of ideas using influential world texts as the foundation for discussion.
- We expect our educators to meet students where they are. Though our curriculum is rigorous and advanced, it is also accessible. Our teachers and curricular team design instruction to provide support and clear, consistent, incremental goals to achieve academic success. There are no short-cuts to effective learning, but we know that with patience and perseverance from students, parents, and teachers, any child can reach their academic potential at the Arkansas Schools for Advanced Studies.
- Teachers will help students consider themselves developing scholars even if they had not considered themselves as such previously. Students will discover themselves in the process of grappling with great texts. Students will develop and grow socially and emotionally through their engagement with the foundational texts, as these texts deliver to students the opportunity to see themselves in others, examining their place in the world both through their engagement with texts and with one another.
- We believe in the immense intellectual capacities of young people. All core classes require hands-on and minds-on intellectual engagement through seminal, foundational texts and works, deep inquiry, and learned discussion with peers and teachers.
- High School Academic Concentration – We model our high school program on the bachelor’s degree programs at most liberal arts colleges and universities in which all students, regardless of their major, are exposed to a wide variety of content across disciplines, while also including further and more advanced work in a “major” field of study. At the Arkansas Schools for Advanced Studies, the options for a major concentration are Fine Arts; Humanities; or Math and Science. All students take rigorous coursework across each of these concentrations, and then further and more advanced coursework (AP and beginning college level) within their area of concentration.
- Transformative Senior Experience – Our seniors work daily with a college counselor, pursue advanced coursework in their area of concentration, and participate in a semester-long service-learning project. The senior year culminates with each student’s Senior Oral Defense, in which they research, present, and discuss a focused topic related to their chosen area of concentration.
- Educators at the Arkansas Schools for Advanced Studies encourage students to express their unique identities. Though we will have basic dress codes, we will not have uniforms.
- Authentic Student Voices – The Arkansas Schools for Advanced Studies foster a school spirit of openness, self-expression, and self-discovery. Students are encouraged to explore their developing beliefs and perspectives in a safe and supportive atmosphere where critical thinking is balanced with civility, decorum, and acceptance of ideological differences.
- Students at all grade levels of the Arkansas Schools for Advanced Studies engage with their campus and larger community through regular and frequent service projects. As students advance through the grade levels, they take on increasing responsibilities for finding and organizing service-learning events for the school and community.
- We believe that students need a balance of boundaries, guidance, and freedom to develop. They need to make and experience mistakes to learn. We want them to endure challenges while they are still young and have people around them who can provide care and guidance.
In addition to these four Core Pillars, the Schools for Advanced Studies have curricular cornerstones that form the foundation of its entire program.
- Advanced Placement – The Advanced Placement program is widely recognized as the gold standard when it comes to high school coursework that meets college credit requirements. Advanced and Honors level students quiet often take AP (or IB) courses in the United States, and the Schools for Advanced Studies will take this to the “next level.” Every student at the Schools for Advanced Studies takes AP Courses as a condition of graduation and a requirement of the program, with most students taking between three and six, depending on their area of concentration.
- Great Books and Seminar Discussion – The Schools for Advanced Studies will partner with and purchase curriculum from the Great Books Foundation, the Touchstones Discussion Project, and select other vendors. That said, BASIS Educational Ventures has fully developed numerous “Great Books” courses in literature, philosophy, and history that will be provided to the Schools for Advanced Studies.
- SPORK and also the Exeter Mathematics Curriculum – The mathematics curriculum will be provided by three different sources: SPORK Mathematics, Exeter Mathematics, and Advanced Placement. When students enter in fifth grade, their readiness and placement is assessed, and they are placed on a track that culminates in either Pre-AP Algebra II or Pre-AP Algebra I in eighth Grade. Then, in high school, students continue in a mathematics curriculum that culminates in AP Calculus BC, AP Stats, or AP Calculus AB. Prior to the AP courses, student will pivot between courses from the SPORK Mathematics curriculum (a spiraling, tablet based math program that has formed the mathematics foundation at the BASIS Charter Schools in Arizona, Texas, Louisiana and Washington, D.C.) and Exeter Math Courses 1-4, a problem centered (rather than topic centered) and seminar based approached to mathematics. In all cases, the curriculum has been modified to meet Arkansas State Standards.