Ascent Classical Academies (ACA) is a growing network of tuition-free, classical public charter schools serving children in kindergarten through 12th grade. Schools in the Ascent Classical Academy network are affiliated with the Hillsdale College Barney Charter School Initiative (BCSI). At full enrollment, schools are expected to enroll between 700 to 1,000 students, depending on location and funding. The leadership of Ascent Classical Academies include parents and founders of Golden View Classical Academy (GVCA) in Golden, Colorado, the first Hilldale BCSI school in the state.
Hillsdale College’s involvement is significant though limited to advising on curriculum, staff training, and recommending school leadership candidates. No money is exchanged nor charged between a school and Hillsdale College.
Golden View Classical Academy was founded in 2015, having graduated its first class of seniors in 2018. While the intent and purposes of a classical education make measures of success more difficult, GVCA 2018 SAT scores, an indicator of post-high school preparedness, ranked in the Top 10 of all Colorado high schools. Based on the strong demand for tuition-free classical charter schools in Colorado and the team’s success in establishing GVCA, in partnership with Hillsdale College, Ascent Classical Academies was created, to make more proven education options available to families.
The vision of Ascent Classical Academies is to develop within its students the intellectual and personal habits and skills upon which responsible, independent and productive lives are built, in the firm belief that such lives are the basis of a free and just society.
Ascent Classical Academies achieves this by training the minds and improving the hearts of young people through a classical, content-rich education in the liberal arts and sciences, with instruction in the principles of moral character and civic virtue in an orderly and disciplined environment.
In the current landscape of school choice and education, Ascent Classical Academies are unique. ACA does not offer an “innovative” approach nor embrace the latest fads to educating young people but offers a timeless academic program and school culture. While preparing children for college and career are important policy objectives of public education, this is too shallow a goal to sustain a free society. Citizens must not only be well educated but must understand the importance of self-government and have the background to flourish in life.
Key pieces of the school program include:
Content-Rich – Children must not be limited to mastering mere skills to be deemed educated. As society promotes “critical thinking,” it’s important that young people know things, to inform them and to have something to think about. Unfortunately, this is a departure from current trends in education.
Liberal Arts and Sciences – The liberal arts were developed as a well-rounded education worthy of free people and includes literature, history, mathematics, sciences, and the fine arts. As many programs are narrowing their curricula, ACA believes the broad, liberal arts approach develops the mind, soul and imagination.
Classical with an American Focus – A quality classical education promotes a pursuit of excellence in the development in knowledge of the world, moral self-government, and virtue. It also includes the previous elements and takes an approach that developing reason and communication skills are critical in a society of self-governing citizens. The literature and history studied in the school focuses on the timeless issues and nature of mankind and societies. There are themes and lessons to be learned from the previous thousands of year of human existence that help provide people a strong foundation and self-awareness, rather than an absence of historical context of issues and circumstances encountered in modern society.
ACA schools take the ideals and lessons of the past and lead students to discover how those ideas shaped the founding of American and led to the establishment of our Constitutional republic and a society built on personal liberty and opportunity.
Virtue – It’s commonly said that children today are morally adrift and don’t have a firm grounding in objective truth, beauty, and goodness. There are individual virtues needed for our society to prosper and flourish, that must be modeled, developed, and practiced. These include things like courage, prudence, moderation, responsibility, friendship, and honor. The study of good literature and history, especially heroes and villains help develop these virtues inform what happens when these are present or absent.