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Education

National Teacher of the Year finalist and Jones Elementary second grade teacher Justin Minkel talks about moving from California to Northwest Arkansas, and his experience teaching at a Springdale Elementary School.

Daycare

Northwest Arkansas has a lot of working Moms and Dads, who depend on quality daycares throughout Northwest Arkansas. A recent survey released by the Walton Family Foundation suggested that 68% of locals believed Northwest Arkansas daycares to be high quality.

For more information on daycares in Northwest Arkansas, check out NWA Kids Directory, Peek-A-Boo Mag, or Childcare Center US and enter your new or potentially new zip code.

Primary

School Distinctions

Pre-K through elementary school is an important time in a child’s life, and Northwest Arkansas’s many high-quality educational offerings are an indication of the significance the region places on early childhood education.

There are incredible public and private pre-k through elementary schools throughout the region, and it’s very likely you’ll have a great option near your home.

The school distinctions include: traditional public schools, open-enrollment charter schools, Montessori schools, independent schools and schools with religious affiliations (parochial schools).

All schools share a commitment to safety, excellence in education, and helping students achieve academic success. For more information on pre-K through 6 schools in your city, you might first check the school district’s website, and if you still cannot find what you’re looking for, please feel free to contact us (top right corner). We’ll do our best to connect you with resources to help.

 

A boy studies plants at the Apple Seeds Teaching Farm
Teaching Farm | c/o: Apple Seeds

Programs & Extracurricular Activities

Both public and private elementary schools throughout the region offer a range of important programs such as school-based health centersextended care for students before and after regular classroom hours, and supplemental instruction.

A program that stands out is the 1,000 Books Project that began at Harvey Jones Elementary School in Springdale. The 1,000 Books Project was started by teacher Justin Minkel, who noted a correlation between at-risk readers and a lack of books in homes. Minkel’s solution was simple: Provide students with books to keep.

These 25 students made more progress in their reading than I have experienced with any other class,” Minkel said. “By the end of the project’s second year, they had exceeded the district expectation for growth by an average of nine levels on the (Developmental Reading Assessment) and five points on the computerized Measures of Academic Progress reading test. And they made this growth despite formidable obstacles to academic success—20 of the 25 are English language learners, and all but one live in poverty.

The Milken Institute described the home library project as a powerful example of teacher leadership taken to scale: a simple idea with profound impact on students.

Northwest Arkansas has a growing cycling community, that trickles down to elementary school. In 2010, the Fayetteville School District received a grant that meant bike education became part of every elementary student’s physical education experience. An Arkansas advocacy group, Bike/Walk Arkansas, explains Bike Ed as a “comprehensive, hands-on program that started in 2010 in the Fayetteville Public Schools to teach third- through fifth-grade students how to drive a bicycle. A Safe Routes to School Education grant from the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department and a supporting grant from Specialized Bicycles formed the financial backbone of the program. The Bike ED curriculum teaches the rules of the road and how to be visible, predictable, alert and assertive while driving their bicycle just as one would drive a motor vehicle.”

Bentonville Schools has a similar program, called Trail Time. Bike/Walk Arkansas noted that “Bentonville Public Schools have perhaps the most comprehensive bicycle physical education program in the nation.”

This is just a sampling of Northwest Arkansas extracurricular programs and supplemental instruction. For more information, it’s best to contact school districts about the programs they offer.

Art Feeds, Dale Benfield | c/o: Art Feeds

Public School Options

There are over 60 public elementary schools in Northwest Arkansas. All traditional public schools employ the Common Core curriculum as required by the Arkansas Department of Education. Northwest Arkansas students always test above the state average on standardized tests and our students’ performance is competitive with national averages for literacy and mathematics.

Aside from the traditional public school education, there are incredible opportunities for students to learn and develop outside of the classroom. You can read more about that here.

Open-enrollment primary charter schools include Arkansas Arts Academy (K-8, Rogers), Ozark Montessori Academy (K-6, Springdale), and Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy (K-9, Bentonville).

If you’d like to compare our elementary schools with a school your child is currently attending, try this school comparison tool.

In 2017, Niche ranked Fayetteville School District and Bentonville Public Schools the top 2 best school districts in Arkansas. Rogers, Springdale and Siloam Springs Public Schools were also ranked in the top 20.

Private School Options

There are 15 private elementary schools in the region. Private school designations include: parochial schools, prep-track schools, and Montessori schools.

The curriculum taught in private schools depends on the mission and vision of the individual school. The New School, for example, teaches a STEAM curriculum, focusing on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. Whereas, St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic school in Northwest Arkansas, incorporates religious doctrine into their teaching. St. Vincent de Paul has also been recognized as a national blue ribbon exemplary high-performing school.

The Best Schools (www.thebestschools.org) ranks The New School as the best private elementary school in the nation.

The New School | c/o: The New School

Part of our vision is to help children live the life they dream... Who do these kids want to be someday, what job do they want, what type of person do they want to become?

Justin Minkel, Jones Elementary School

Secondary

Fayetteville High School | c/o: Fayetteville High School

School Distinctions

Students graduate Northwest Arkansas high schools prepared to attend college or pursue a career. This region has displayed a strong commitment to providing access to excellent education in both public and private options in Northwest Arkansas.

Northwest Arkansas schools have an average student-to-teacher ratio of 14:1, and 68 schools in the region are classified as “exemplary” or “achieving” under ESEA Accountability System. According to an annual education report published by U.S. News & World Report, Northwest Arkansas is home to seven schools (both public and private) that rank in the top 10% of the nation. 

In 2017, Niche ranked Fayetteville School District and Bentonville Public Schools the top 2 best school districts in Arkansas. Rogers, Springdale and Siloam Springs Public Schools were also ranked in the top 20.

Northwest Arkansas has a range of secondary schools with the following designations: open-enrollment charter schools, conversion charter schools, traditional public schools, parochial or schools with religious affiliation, independent schools and prep-track schools.

Fayetteville High School band members pose for a photo after a competition.
Band Members | c/o: Fayetteville High School

Programs and Extracurricular Activities

All public high schools offer Advanced Placement courses, and many of them give the option of earning dual college credit while still in high school. Top students can graduate from a Northwest Arkansas high school with as many as 20 college credits. For more information on academic opportunities offered within specific school districts, it’s best to contact the individual school your child will attend.

The clubs and programs offered in Northwest Arkansas high schools enhance the academic experience, and prepare students’ resumes for college applications and/or a career. From Student Governments, to the Advanced Pianists Association, there is something to match every student’s individual academic interest. For individual club listings, it’s best to speak with the school your child will attend.

There are a wide variety of athletic programs offered at the junior high and high school level. Traditional sports such as football, basketball, volleyball, tennis, wrestling, track, etc. are represented at many high schools throughout the region.

Sports Illustrated named Fayetteville High School as one of the nation’s top 20 athletic programs. “Located across the street from the University of Arkansas, this school has won a state-best 24 titles in 10 sports.” Since the SI article was published, the Bulldogs have claimed 26 more state championships in girls golf, girls basketball, boys basketball, girls soccer, football, volleyball, cheerleading and spirit squad.

According to MaxPreps, Bentonville, Fayetteville, and Springdale’s Har-Ber High School have the most competitive athletic programs in Arkansas.

Public School Options

There are more than 20 traditional public high schools in Northwest Arkansas. The largest high schools are in Fayetteville, Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale and Siloam Springs. All Northwest Arkansas high schools in offer a high quality education, regardless of size.

In Arkansas, there are two basic types of public charter schools – conversion and open-enrollment. Northwest Arkansas has both types, but significantly more conversion charter schools. Conversion charters are largely focused on professional studies, and their emphasis areas are wide-ranging. Northwest Arkansas conversion charters include: Pea Ridge Manufacturing and Business Academy, Springdale School of Innovation, Career Academy of Siloam Springs, Rogers New Tech High School and Bentonville Ignite.

These schools offer professional studies in Industrial Maintenance, IT Solutions, Construction, and Health Occupations. Certifications (in addition to a traditional high school diploma) are offered, including concurrent college credit and industry certifications.

Northwest Arkansas’ open enrollment schools are highly ranked academic institutions, focused primarily on college preparatory and the arts. Open-enrollment charter schools serving grades 6-12 include: Arkansas Arts Academy (k-8, Rogers), Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy (k-9, Bentonville) and Haas Hall Academy (7-12, Bentonville and Fayetteville).

Community partnerships improve students’ readiness for college and careers. A great example, Mu Sigma, partnered with Bentonville High School to introduce careers in decision sciences to students.

Private School Options

Northwest Arkansas private schools maintain the region’s standards with a commitment to excellence in education.

For example, the Walton Family Foundation has announced plans to build a new independent school named Thaden School as part of a commitment to “building a high quality pre-K through 12 education system in Northwest Arkansas.” Dr. Clayton Marsh, a former deputy dean at Princeton University, will serve as head of school. Dr. Marsh recently noted “the conditions in Northwest Arkansas could not be better – a welcoming and dynamic community, a readiness for innovation in education, and, of course, the inspiring beauty of the Ozarks.”

Shiloh Christian, a parochial school, offers a rigorous line of curriculum for their students, including advanced placement courses in five subjects and college credit classes in five subjects, as well. Students who graduate from Shiloh are prepared for the future.

The Best Schools (www.thebestschools.org) ranks The New School as the best private elementary school in the nation. The New School is expanding to offer secondary curriculum, and a 9th grade class began in the fall of 2016. In the fall of 2017, they’ll add 10th grade, etc.

Bentonville High School, Noah West | c/o: Bentonville High School

Higher Education

Old Main, University of Arkansas | c/o: City of Fayetteville

Some of the nation’s best and fastest growing higher education institutions are in Northwest Arkansas, including private and public universities and colleges, two and four year programs, and more programs of study than we can list.

The University of Arkansas, the State’s flagship University, has a rich history in Northwest Arkansas. Established in 1871, the University was a positive, unifying force within the State creating traditions and sports teams to rally around.

The university’s 26,754 students come from every county in Arkansas and some 100 nations, and they choose from nearly 200 academic programs of study. Through the integration of teaching, research, and service that puts students first, the University of Arkansas is taking its place among the nation’s greatest comprehensive academies.

The University of Arkansas has the largest international exchange of scholars in the world, the Fulbright Scholarship Program. They continue to accrue a long list of accolades and achievements, that you can read more about here.

John Brown University (pictured right) is the region’s largest private college, located in Siloam Springs. JBU was recognized as the 2nd best regional university in the South by U.S. News & World Report. If you’re looking for more information on JBU, you might try this page.

Northwest Arkansas is home to a teaching medical school, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences – Northwest, where physicians, pharmacists, and other health-related specialties are taught and trained.

Northwest Arkansas Community College is Northwest Arkansas’s premier two year college, providing skilled instruction with smaller class sizes. They’ll soon introduce a new culinary school to the region, called Brightwater. Northwest Technical Institute provides instruction in skilled trades and other technical professions to support our growing workforce needs.

Cathedral Group Aerial
John Brown University | c/o: John Brown University

Experiential Learning

Fayetteville Public Library | c/o: Fayetteville Visitors Bureau

Museums, Libraries, and Hands – On Learning Opportunities

The out-of-classroom learning opportunities available to students in Northwest Arkansas are world class. Consider the Scott Family Amazeum, a museum for children and families, where everything is hands-on and designed to be touched, climbed on, and interacted with. Exhibits work to engage the imagination and to bring art and science to life. Of course, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, arguably one of the most important American Art Museums in the United States, never charges an admission fee. Other regional history museums, such as the Museum of Native American History and the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History, provide great regional history accounts. The Fayetteville Public Library has an entire page devoted to events for children. The Siloam Springs Public Library, which opened this year, will be offering events geared towards children as well.

The Walton Arts Center offers programs designed to help students, teachers and families incorporate the arts into students’ lives. The programs, such as the Colgate Classroom Series and 100% Smart Partner Schools Initiative are creating a community where all children, regardless of income, have the arts in their lives. More than 45,000 Northwest Arkansas students, teachers and individuals were served through these programs in the 2014-15 academic year. An additional 350 teachers learned to use the arts to teach core curriculum subjects that more than 11,000 students learned.

Each child learns and discovers in their own, unique way. This list is only a sampling of NWA activities. If you are looking for something specifically that you don’t see here, please contact us.

 

 

An Apple Seeds student participates in a project based learning corse working on preparing vegetables for his healthy snack.
Apple Seeds Teaching Farm, Nikki Toth | c/o: Apple Seeds
The Jones Center Youth Hockey | c/o: The Jones Center

Organizations to Watch

There are so many great people in Northwest Arkansas dedicated to providing rich educational experiences to our students. We’ll periodically introduce you to them here.

Apple Seeds and Art Feeds are two community-led programs that offer supplemental instruction and project-based learning opportunities for students in Northwest Arkansas.

Apple Seeds is a farm-to-table program that started as school gardens across the region, arming teachers with project-based learning opportunities. It has expanded its offerings to include supplemental material for educators teaching the common-core curriculum. Their stake in the community has grown from a few school gardens to two working, teaching farms used for field trips. Students who visit the working farms embrace putting their hands in the dirt for an afternoon.

One of Apple Seeds’ purpose is to inspire healthy living and positive food choices by connecting students to food sources. One of the co-executive directors, Mary Thompson, sums it up perfectly when she says, “We want to get them excited about vegetables.” No small task, right?

Research shows Apple Seeds is making a difference. About 95% of students who took a field trip to a teaching farm tried a new vegetable, and 80% of students viewed vegetables more favorably after their interaction with Apple Seeds.

Art Feeds is somewhat of a newcomer to Northwest Arkansas, but that hasn’t slowed their community impact. The founder, Meg Bourne, started Art Feeds in Joplin when the Missouri community was recovering from the May 2011 tornado that wiped out a large swath of the city. Art Feeds’ curriculum is designed to reduce fear, stress and anxiety in students and increase creative problem solving, collaboration and self worth.

The first NWA Art Feeds project was a 14-foot mural designed and produced by fourth-grade students at Parson Hills Elementary School in Springdale. The unveiling of the mural was a proud community moment for the students, educators and volunteers. Heather Cooper, principal at Parson Hill Elementary, talked about the mural project being **“a big self-esteem builder for the students. It did a lot of great things for our kids academically, socially, emotionally, but also it was just fun for them,”**

Check out the video of the Springdale mural here.

Camps & Programs

Northwest Arkansas was rated #1 in family friendliness by Building Cities for People in 2016. That being said, we have a wide variety of offerings for children and families.

The Amazeum has so many great programs and camps geared toward families with children of all ages. The programs include both daytime activities as well as summer camps. This summer, a sampling of their camps themes include “Tech Wizard Camp” or a “How It’s Made Camp.”

For grades 9-12, the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture & Design is also hosting a Design Camp. Design Camp offers the chance to learn about the design professions through hands-on projects, tours, presentation and discussions led by architecture, landscape architecture and interior design faculty of the Fay Jones School.

The Northwest Arkansas Community College offers a Kid’s College in the summer months. Kid’s College is for children ages 9-13. The camp allows kids to participate in fun, educational short-term courses – from computer coding, robotics, and presidential elections to cooking, junior medic, and more.

Among NWA’s many neighborhood parks, we are in the discovery phase of adding a park designed specifically for children with special needs, called a sensory playground. Sensory playgrounds typically include elements designed to elevate problem-solving skills and self esteem. If you’d like to be a part of the conversation, contact the City of Bentonville.

If you’re trying to find a neighborhood park or some other hiking, climbing or camping related activity, you might look at the Outdoor page for more information.

There are many athletic camps hosted throughout the region, particularly during the summer months. If you’re looking for a sports-related camp, here are a few well known organizers: University of Arkansas, the Jones Center, Arkansas Athletes Outreach, and others. Please feel free to contact us if you can’t find a club or camp you’re looking for.