@ ARROW ACCELERATED ACADEMY
Thank you for your interest in Arrow Accelerated Academy!
We are honored you are here to learn more about us.
This page will walk you through our learning design, introduce you to our school culture, and give you an opportunity to meet our team. We encourage you to click on links as you encounter them.
(And grab a pen and paper for questions, while you're at it! We would be happy to answer any questions you have! Just send us an email!)
WE ARE AN ACTON ACADEMY.
First, we invite you to watch this virtual tour video created by the founders of Acton Academy, Laura and Jeff Sandefer.
Please learn more about the Sandefers by visiting this website to read Laura’s bio and seeing Jeff in action by watching his TEDx video. You might be interested to listen to this podcast that Jeff did with Jesse McCarthy of MontessoriEducation.com, or this recording of a keynote speech given at the Acton Institute.
Laura wrote an informative and helpful book about Acton Academy called Courage to Grow. We can send you a digital copy of the book by clicking the "Courage to Grow" link on our website.
21st CENTURY LEARNING IS HAPPENING HERE.
After going through the information above, you have likely realized something special is happening here and we are quite different from programs using traditional education.
If you aren’t sure what 21st Century Learning is, we invite you to read this Forbes article explaining that. There are quite a few differences between “modern” learning and traditional learning, with the key one being that the focus is on skill development rather than information regurgitation: process over content.
The content is viewed as the vehicle on the road to developing mastery in important skills like: critical thinking, resolving conflict, problem solving, and project management to name a few.
Thankfully we are not relying on “curriculum development” as it happens in traditional schools where a committee of government-appointed people discuss how to change the curriculum. It is not surprising that this method means that curriculum only changes over decades. One problem: we are in a fast-paced technologically driven society where things change much, much faster than that. We are able to keep up to those changes!
WE HAVE “STUDIOS” AND “GUIDES!”
Some of the terminology we use is a little different than at other schools.
We don't have teachers at Arrow Academy. Instead, we have guides. The term "guide" reflects what we believe adults in our learning environment should do - guide, coach, and reflect, but never direct, lecture, or command. We refer to our classrooms as "studios" because these are spaces that allow for inspiration and exploration, much like an artist's studio or inventor's workshop. And we often use the term "hero" to identify our learners, as we frequently refer to the concept of the Hero's Journey as our learners develop their character and gifts.
In the beginning of this interview video with Acton Academy learners, they explain the role of guides in the learning process at an Acton Academy.
In terms of programming, we offer a Spark Studio, Elementary (Primary) Studio, and Middle/High School (Secondary) studio open for the 2023-2024 school year. You can learn more about each of our studios here.
So who are the people behind Arrow Academy? Take a look at our stories here.
You can see pictures of our learning space by clicking here, or by following us on Facebook or Instagram.
OUR LEARNING DESIGN IN ACTION.
This is a good time to look at how modern learning happens here.
Our school year is organized into six sessions/“sprints,” with each sprint lasting 6 weeks. (There is one "mini-session" of 3 weeks in December.)
During each session, heroes undertake a Quest: a series of challenges, connected by a narrative, leading up to an exhibition of the completed work. The Quests are project-based in nature. Each session also focuses on a specific character trait, which is tied into the Quests and daily Socratic discussions. Those projects hit all the major areas of learning like: art, music, history, the sciences — chemistry, physics, biology, life, environment, and specific technology like coding, robotics, software development, or graphic design.
On that note, our calendar is different and it is important you have a look at that to make sure it works with your family. We use a “modified” school-year calendar that incorporates education best-practice to improve student well-being by including more frequent breaks throughout the year as well as a shorter summer. We love this calendar! It’s great not having a big learning gap in the summer — and we don’t count down days until the next break because they happen so frequently. (Many of our families love taking advantage of travelling off-peak!) Due to the way our independent learning program is set up, it is okay if your family wants to spend time away for vacations or important events. You can still continue your learning on the road!
You can see the start and end dates of each of the sessions below:
Session 1: August 21st-September 29th, 2023
Session 2: October 9th-November 17th, 2023
Session 3: Novemer 27th-December 15th, 2023
Session 4: January 8th-February 16th, 2024
Session 5: February 26th-April 5th, 2024
Session 6: April 15th-May 24th, 2024
+ Summer Camp Sessions in June and July
School hours for all programs will be from 8:45am-3:00pm. Morning drop-off begins at 8:00am. All learners may be picked up between 3:00-4:00pm.
We are located near a few day care options for families that need extended before and after school care.
How much is tuition at Arrow Accelerated Academy? Tuition for the 2023-2024 school year is $10,600 per learner. (We offer a sibling discount as well as a pay-in-full discount.) Tuition is billed over 10 months.
See what a typical week of learning at Arrow looks like. Of course, we allow for some flexibility in our schedule as goals change and ideas grow.
Our mornings always begin with Launch discussion. This is a Socratic-style discussion led by a Guide (or the heroes themselves) that inspires, equips, and sets the tone for the day. See a Launch led by Jeff Sandefer below.
You can see that the rest of the morning is focused on academics: math, reading, and writing. We refer to these as our "Core Skills". As mentioned in the Acton Academy video at the very top of this page, we use a variety of tools for the academics including game-based software, group problem-solving challenges, and hands-on materials. These programs allow us to have the most up-to-date and research-based practices for learning at our fingertips. Guides are able to make qualitative observations about heroes' learning and collect quantitative data from program performance. Guides use this information to coach learners. Parents are also expected to regularly check in on their learner's progress to support their learning goals at home.
While the mornings are generally focused on achieving independent learning goals, the afternoons are more collaborative in nature. The afternoons are when we work on the art of writing in our Writer's Workshops, explore the foundations of civilization in Heroic History, and project-based learning during Quest.
Here are a couple examples of Quests from other Acton Academies in our network:
LEARNING TO LEARN, DO, AND BE.
You won’t find grades or report cards at our school.
Young heroes celebrate the mastery of tools, skills and character by earning badges, assembling portfolios and taking part in public exhibitions.
Parents use badges to track academic progress in Core Skills like reading, writing, math and spelling and character development in “Learn to Be” Badges.
Electronic and hard copy Portfolios capture rough drafts, photos, video and other creative work.
Public exhibitions at the end of most Quests allow young heroes to present work to experts, customers or the public for a real world test.
Our learners and guides use a software program unique to Acton Academy, called Journey Tracker, to track progress and see what the daily, weekly, and “session” plans are in real time. Parents/Guardians may use this software with their learners to view session progress and reflect on learning goals together.
Learners are given the opportunity to do progress testing in math and literacy twice per year. These tests are very low-stakes and meant to give the learner a snapshot of their progress comparative to traditional grade-level work.
Did you know?
Acton learners typically score 2-3 grade levels above their traditionally schooled peers on standardized tests.
WE ARE TRULY LEARNER-DRIVEN
Everyone in our program has a significant role to play here. Each learner and guide has a responsibility to be a contributing member, committing to the process of supporting each other in their learning goals.
Our learners “audit” each other’s work, dive into deep learning and also deep conversations that sometimes might be tough. We value the messiness that comes with making mistakes or not getting something quite right — we view mistakes more like experiments that lead us to necessary corrections and improvements.
Our learners, through the democratic process, suggest changes to the system if they feel those are warranted, work in groups to dig into tricky problems, and learn how to support each other even when that feels hard. Over time, we see growth in their character, grit, and ability to persevere.
What traits lead to thriving here at Arrow Accelerated Academy?
AUTONOMY (willing to take on challenges independently after being shown a demonstration or being given a prompt, does not require an adult to hover or "nag" in order to make progress)
COLLABORATION (enjoys working with similar-aged and differently-aged peers, sharing ideas, comfortable having discussions in small groups)
TENACITY (will keep trying to create something they're proud of despite mistakes or set-backs)
CURIOSITY (asks questions, wants to problem and take the time to find the answers)
KINDNESS (will be gentle, friendly, and forgiving with peers)
LEADERSHIP (demonstrates a desire to organize or lead others in a positive and patient way)
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE FOR ACTON LEARNERS?
Arrow Accelerated Academy is registered with the Illinois State Board of Education and accredited by the International Association of Learner Driven Schools. A high school diploma earned in our program is the same as a diploma earned at any other public or private school in the state of Illinois.
Graduates of Acton Academies throughout our affiliate network are prepared for a variety of opportunities post high school. Some graduates choose to a take a traditional college path and have been accepted into competitive universities throughout the country. Some graduates choose to take a "nontraditional" path by starting businesses or getting hired by well-known companies right out of high school, based on the significant real-world experience our learners gain during their time at Arrow.
What about transcripts? Even though our learners are working on mastery badges, we are still able to provide our graduates and transfers with a traditional transcript that reflects their academic requirements and GPA. In addition to a traditional and/or mastery transcript, they will also have developed a portfolio of work that they will be able to use to enhance college and job applications.
WE'RE READY TO START OUR JOURNEY!
Let us know you're interested in beginning the application process by scheduling a tour of our school!