One Arizona charter school is moving away from state educational norms to turn their students into “Renaissance men and women” through a classical education.
“It’s a classical liberal arts curriculum,” said Dr. Dan Scoggin, CEO of Great Hearts Academies. “For instance, by the time a senior graduates from our school, they’ve acted in four plays — two Shakespeare plays. They’ve read Plato and Aristotle,the great classics of Western civilization. They’ve taken a humane letters class in which they’ve engaged in critical discussion and reasoning with other students. They’ve taken math through two years of calculus, four years of lab science. We’re really producing Renaissance men and women, classical liberal artists.”
Scoggin said the curriculum offered at his schools is similar to what was offered to previous generations.
Unlike public schools, Great Hearts Academies does not offer electives. Students may choose which foreign language course they would like to learn, but that is it. In public schools, students are often allowed to choose several courses every year.
All charter schools are required by Arizona law to teach core subjects and Great Hearts Academies is no exception. However, Scoggin’s schools require much more work than the average public school — two hours of homework per night for middle school students, three hours for high school students — but has the scores to support its format works.
“Our average ACT score over five years is 27 and our SAT score is over 1840,” said Scoggin, adding that his students are outperforming those at Brophy and Xavier, both private schools.
According to Scoggin, Arizona has the highest public school students enrolled in a charter school in the nation. Students in the state can attend charter schools tuition-free if they are selected by the school’s lottery program.
“We typically get many more applications than we have openings at the academies…in that case, all the applications are treated equally and put into a computer program, we call it a lottery,” he said.
Scoggin said Arizona has so many charter schools because the state is very open to the idea and it’s a good thing for the education of the state’s children.
“I think it’s really moving the needle for kids,” he said.