What is the Hillsdale College Barney Charter School Initiative, and why is it good?
The Barney Charter School Initiative is an ambitious program to begin and sustain classical charter schools across America.
The Initiative conducts ongoing professional development at all of its affiliated tuition-free charter schools, beginning with two weeks of intensive training before the opening of every new school. Then, each summer thereafter, each school sends their teachers to Hillsdale College for further professional development, collaboration, and instructional design. Hillsdale College does not charge a fee to, or seek reimbursement from, the schools for the support it provides.
Why is this relationship with Hillsdale a good thing for a classical school like ours to cultivate?
In the first place, Hillsdale College’s content experts provide real training both in lessons and classroom management, of a kind and focus that one cannot find in typical education schools. In the second place, Hillsdale College is a sturdy defender of the liberal arts, with a long tradition of supporting people from many backgrounds in learning them. Hillsdale was the first American college to prohibit discrimination based on race, religion, or sex in its charter, and was the second college in the nation to grant four-year liberal arts degrees to women.
Ten Pillars of the Barney Charter School Initiative Model
- The centrality of the Western tradition in the study of history, literature, philosophy, and fine arts;
- A rich and recurring examination of the American literary, moral, philosophical, political, and historical traditions;
- The use of explicit phonics instruction leading to reading fluency, and the use of explicit grammar instruction leading to English language mastery;
- The teaching of Latin;
- The acknowledgement of objective standards of correctness, logic, beauty, weightiness, and truth intrinsic to the liberal arts;
- A school culture demanding moral virtue, decorum, respect, discipline, and studiousness among the students and faculty;
- A curriculum that is content-rich, balanced and strong across the four core disciplines of math, science, literature, and history;
- A faculty where well-educated and articulate teachers explicitly convey real knowledge to students using traditional teaching methods rather than using so-called “student-centered learning” methods;
- A school that uses technology effectively but without diminishing the faculty leadership that is crucial to academic achievement; and
- A school with a plan to serve grades K through 12, although the grades at school opening may be scaled back if reasonable.
As a school that believes that any student who works hard can succeed with a demanding curriculum in a structured environment, this is a tradition that Ascent Classical Academy wholeheartedly supports.