By Sarah Haney | DiscoverNorthwestArkansas.com
Charter schools are publicly-funded independent schools established by teachers, parents or community groups under the terms of a charter with a local or national authority. They operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. The charter establishing each such school is a performance contract detailing the school’s mission, program, goals, students served and methods of assessment. The basic concept of public charter schools is that they exercise increased autonomy in return for this accountability. Public charter schools are still accountable to the State Board of Education to produce positive academic results and adhere to the charter contract. In Northwest Arkansas, there are both open-enrollment and conversion charter schools. An open-enrollment school is a public charter school run by a governmental entity, an institution of higher learning or a tax-exempt nonsectarian organization. Open enrollment schools can draw students from across district boundaries. Conversion charter schools are public schools that have been converted to a charter school — they can
only draw students from within the school district’s boundaries.
Northwest Arkansas charter schools offer a wide range instruction, from college prep and hands-on project learning to professional studies in industrial maintenance, information technology, construction, diesel technology and health occupations. Northwest Arkansas charter schools offer a traditional high school diploma as well as certifications.
Open-enrollment charter schools in Northwest Arkansas include Arkansas Arts Academy (kindergarten-12, Rogers), Ozark Montessori Academy (kindergarten-6, Springdale), Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy (kindergarten-12, Bentonville), and Haas Hall Academy (7-12, Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers, and Springdale). Conversion charter schools in Northwest Arkansas include Fayetteville Virtual Academy (Fayetteville), Farmington Career Academies (Farmington), Lincoln New Tech High School (Lincoln), Pea Ridge Manufacturing and Business Academy (Pea Ridge), Rogers New Technology High School (Rogers), and Springdale School of Innovation (Springdale).
Private schools are not administered by local, state, or national governments. Private schools retain the right to select their students and are funded by charging for tuition and private support rather than relying on mandatory taxation through public funding. Some private schools offer scholarships based on the student’s talents or academic abilities, thereby lowering the tuition fees. Some private schools are religious in nature or are associated with a particular church or religion. These private schools teach religious education in addition to the usual academic subjects.
There are many private schools in the Northwest Arkansas region, including Prism Education Center and The New School, both of Fayetteville. The New School teaches a STEAM curriculum focusing on science, technology,
engineering, arts, and mathematics. Prism Education Center is a values-based, faith-based preKindergarten through 12th grade private school that is committed to developing children of knowledge, insight, integrity, and wisdom.
The largest private school in Northwest Arkansas, Shiloh Christian School was founded in 1976 as a ministry of Cross Church. Today, Shiloh educates more than 1,000 students in two locations: Springdale (PreK4-12th grade) and a new Pinnacle Hills campus in Rogers (PreK4- 2nd grade). Shiloh’s mission is to develop Godly leaders who engage their culture and change it. St. Joseph Catholic School, in Fayetteville, is part of the St. Joseph Parish and encourages elementary students to use their God-given talents to live and proclaim Jesus Christ in the community through a religious-centered education. Likewise, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School, of Rogers, provides academic excellence in a Christian environment that instills Catholic principles and life-long values through faith, knowledge, and service.
In addition to these faith-based private schools, plans for the first Catholic high school in the region are underway. Ozark Catholic Academy will open on the campus of St. Joseph Parish in Tontitown, and will welcome students on Aug. 16.
Thaden School, located in downtown Bentonville, recently opened its doors in the fall of
2017 with grades 7 and 9 with intentions to grow incrementally over the next few years
to include grades 6 through 12. The school opened with support from the Walton Family Foundation.