An independent school is a private, non-profit entity that sets its own educational mission and is governed by its own board of directors. Although an independent school must be accredited by a state-approved organization, it is not required to prepare students for state-mandated or other standardized assessments. For that reason, an independent school has considerable freedom to shape its curriculum and learning goals in ways that will advance its mission. Students are also selected through an admissions process that is aligned with the school’s mission. While tuition payments and charitable contributions support much of the operating budget, many independent schools also have endowed funds for financial aid and other special programs.
The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), a nonprofit membership association, provides services to more than 1,500 independent K-12 schools in the United States. Thaden School is a member of NAIS. For further information regarding independent school education, see the NAIS publication Values Added: The Lifelong Returns of an Independent School Education.
Our mission is to provide a balanced and challenging education that ignites in our students a passion for discovery and learning, prepares them to succeed in college, and inspires them to lead lives of integrity, purpose, and responsible global citizenship.
Please click here to read the full mission statement, including our guiding principles, as adopted by the Board of Directors in 2015.
Thaden School opened its doors in the fall of 2017 and will grow incrementally over the following four years to serve students in grades 6 through 12. At full build-out, the campus and its structures will support as many as 600 students, although the size of each instructional section will not exceed 15 students on average.
Our campus is located on a 30-acre site in downtown Bentonville’s Market District, a short distance from a rich variety of cultural and educational resources such as the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and its new contemporary art center; Brightwater, the new culinary arts program at Northwest Arkansas Community College; the Scott Family Amazeum; and the Bentonville Public Library. Many local residents will remember this site as the home of the Benton County Fair for nearly 80 years. Prior to 1924, it served as the campus for three other educational institutions, including Bentonville High School when Louise McPhetridge Thaden was enrolled there.
The house where Louise McPhetridge Thaden lived during her high school years has been moved from its original location on West Central Avenue and incorporated into the design of the school’s campus at Eighth and Main in downtown Bentonville. Built in the mid-1890s, the original house was a T-shaped structure that has been obscured over the years with several additions. It will be renovated to serve the current needs of the school. It is also important to note that the campus of Thaden School once served as the campus of Bentonville High School when Louise Thaden was a student there from 1919 to 1924.
The design and construction of two major campus buildings and several ancillary structures will be complete before the school commences its third academic year in the fall of 2019. Please visit the campus section of this website for more information.
A Thaden education is challenging and balanced. Our students will graduate with a strong foundation in all disciplines across the humanities and the sciences and with the computational, analytical, and writing skills needed to succeed in college. We combine an innovative curriculum and high academic standards with small classes and supportive teachers. Our faculty also integrate and balance many different forms of instruction — from seminar-style teaching to hands-on experiential learning to outdoor and community-engaged projects that give students meaningful opportunities to connect their studies to the region and the world. Outside of their academic coursework, Thaden students find abundant opportunities to develop as leaders, volunteers, and contributors to the life and spirit of the greater community, typically under the direction of coaches and instructors who are also members of the teaching faculty. Most of all, we hope that Thaden students will take from their education a lifelong passion for learning and inspiration to lead lives of integrity, purpose, and responsible global citizenship.
While meeting and exceeding Arkansas state requirements, Thaden’s educational program motivates and inspires students to develop their academic potential and reach new heights of achievement. We believe that school should be exciting and ignite in students a passion for learning and discovery. At the same time, we know that academic growth requires hard work, tough questions, constructive feedback, and provocative challenges. Offering small classes allows us to better serve students whose strengths, skills, and aptitudes may vary from subject to subject.
An important part of our mission is to prepare students for higher education. Our educational program and academic standards are designed to garner respect and credibility among the most selective colleges and universities in the world. Equally important, we require our students to approach the college admission process as a long-term project that requires deep research into programs that match their interests. Our faculty members also bring a wide range of educational backgrounds to our campus and, in this respect, serve as important role models as we encourage students to think carefully and expansively about their college and career aspirations.
The typical size of a class at Thaden is 15 students. In a class of this size, teachers are better able to provide individual instruction and tailor their lessons to their students’ distinct personalities, talents, and interests. It is also easier for students to become actively involved and participate in small instructional settings where teachers can provide encouragement and recognize and celebrate their efforts and achievements.
We recruit teachers from throughout the region, the state, and the country in order to build a balanced learning environment where students encounter many different perspectives and are encouraged to think expansively about their potential. All of our educators bring to Thaden a passion for and mastery of the subjects they teach and the demonstrated ability to educate, inspire, and mentor young people, both inside and outside of the classroom. Members of our regional community who have wisdom and special expertise to share with our students (artists, business professionals, farmers, and many others) are also invited to participate in the educational life of the school.
We believe that a well-balanced education gives students many opportunities for artistic and creative expression through theater, dance, music, film, and other visual arts. The artistic and creative life of our students is integral to Thaden’s campus culture, emanating from and flowing through our educational programs. Our campus will have its own performing arts center and is located just a short distance from Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and its new contemporary art center as well as Brightwater, the new culinary arts program at Northwest Arkansas Community College, all of which promise to be vital hubs of art and inspiration for Thaden students. For further information regarding our offerings in the creative and performing arts, please see the educational program descriptions for our middle and upper schools.
We believe that physical education and athletic competition are integral to a well-balanced education and the promotion of lifelong wellness. To that end, we offer a variety of team and individual sports as well as other recreational and outdoor programs. Each of these programs gives students the opportunity to experience meaningful successes and failures that lead to personal growth. As you will gather from the profiles of our leadership team, athletics and outdoor recreation play an important role in their personal and professional lives.
Our twelve-week trimester calendar allows students to take a greater number of courses in a given year, enabling them to explore more disciplines and subjects. Students, for example, are able to gain meaningful exposure to the visual arts, theater, music, and design before focusing on a specific area at a more advanced level. Our trimester calendar, by the same token, gives teachers more opportunities to diversify their offerings and innovate with new subjects and teaching methods. Of course, a certain subject that cannot be effectively covered within a single trimester can still be offered across multiple trimesters.
Although the trimester system has not been widely adopted in the region, our academic calendar begins on or near the same date as most public and charter schools in Northwest Arkansas and is aligned with sports seasons, national holidays, and traditional breaks. The Thaden year has a one-week Thanksgiving break, two-week winter and spring breaks, and celebrates special occasions such as Louise Thaden Day.
The school day runs from 8:15 am to 3:15 pm and follows a block schedule. Classes generally meet for 60- and 75-minute periods (as opposed to the 50-minute periods that are standard among many high schools). A block schedule better supports intensive, problem-based inquiry as well as community-based and experiential work that takes place outside of the classroom or off campus.
The lunch period at Thaden is an important and enjoyable part of the day. It lasts a full hour and is designed to underscore the lessons of our signature Meals program. Students will also participate in the preparation of school lunches, often made with produce from our teaching gardens, as well as busing and composting at the end of the meal.
Athletic practices and a variety of co-curricular activities are typically scheduled after the academic day and conclude in the early evening.
For two weeks during the school year, Thaden students work with faculty, fellow students, and community members (artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, business leaders, etc.) to apply what they have learned in their classes to projects of local and global significance. For example, a history teacher might partner with an environmental scientist to design an immersive study of the experience of the Battle of Pea Ridge. What would soldiers have relied on for sustenance in the field? What landscape features and weather conditions might have influenced the staging of the campaign? The possibilities for collaboration and immersive learning in Northwest Arkansas are endless, and these field-based projects – what we are calling Intensives — allow teachers to model the investigative habits of mind essential to critical thinking.
Our World Languages program begins by offering instruction in Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Latin for all students (Middle and Upper School). The study of Spanish and Mandarin Chinese, two of the most commonly spoken languages in the world, provide ample opportunities for students to weave history, literature, and art together as our teachers bring these languages and cultures to life. Latin language instruction adds a distinctive and valuable dimension to our curriculum. Students who study Latin come to appreciate word roots in ways that enhance their overall command of English and many other languages and their understanding of legal and scientific terms.
At many schools, especially those serving students with an extremely broad range of academic trajectories and needs, courses that are specifically designed to prepare students for college often carry the Advanced Placement (AP) designation in order to signal their academic rigor. At Thaden, we have not adopted the AP designation because our entire curriculum, as a whole, is challenging and designed to prepare all students for admission to even the most selective colleges and universities in the world. For the same reason, many of the nation’s most academically challenging schools have also chosen not to use the AP system. Of course, Thaden students will in the natural course of their studies develop all of the fundamental skills and knowledge needed to excel on AP examinations should they choose to take them.
Thaden School is an Associate Member of the Arkansas Nonpublic School Accrediting Association (ANSAA), and a Candidate Member of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). Thaden has also received New School Services status through the Independent School Association of Central States (ISACS), a membership organization of more than 230 independent schools from 13 states. Thaden will be eligible to apply for provisional ISACS membership in 2020 and expects to receive full accreditation in 2023. Together, these organizations promote the development of independent schools through their rigorous accreditation processes, professional development programs, and other support services.
We aspire to create a dynamic and diverse community of students. Among the many qualities we hope to find and cultivate in our students are curiosity, creativity, empathy and open-mindedness, independence, ambition, and dedication. In considering prospective students, we also look for candidates who are eager to work collaboratively and participate fully in the life of the school and the local community.
Our application process is designed to help us learn more about each prospective student’s readiness to embrace the challenges and opportunities of a Thaden education.
We prefer that applications be submitted electronically but are happy to provide hard-copy applications upon request. Electronic applications should be submitted online. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a paper application; paper applications should be sent to Thaden School, Admissions Office, 805 SE C Street, Bentonville, AR 72712.
All students and families are welcome to attend one of our upcoming information sessions where they can meet our leadership team and learn more about a Thaden education.
Unfortunately, we may not be able to offer admission to all of the qualified students who apply, in which case certain applicants will be placed on a wait pool and offered admission as space in their grade becomes available.
Thaden’s tuition model advances our mission by providing all families in Northwest Arkansas access to a diverse learning community and an innovative, challenging curriculum taught in small classes (typically no more than 15 students) by outstanding faculty. We also offer an abundance of opportunities for students to participate in athletics and other co-curricular programs.
At Thaden, we believe economic diversity enriches the educational experience for all families and are committed to making a Thaden education accessible to as many qualified students as possible.
To achieve this goal, each family’s contribution is individually determined or “indexed” based on their financial resources.
Note that a family’s contribution is also all-inclusive; it covers tuition as well as transportation to school, two daily meals (breakfast and lunch), all instructional materials, athletic uniforms, the cost of field trips and other special activities, and the use of a personal laptop for the academic year.
All families may apply for indexed tuition. In determining each family’s tuition, many factors will be taken into consideration, including but not limited to household income, family size, number of children attending tuition-based schools (including college), assets and liabilities not reflected in household income, and other factors.
Families who wish to apply will submit several financial materials to Smart Aid, which may include current pay stubs, W-2 forms and/or filed tax returns. All information submitted in an application for indexed tuition will be held in strictest confidence and reviewed separately from the family’s application for admission. Families may also choose not to apply for indexed tuition, in which case they will pay the maximum tuition ($24,600 for Middle School; $25,800 for Upper School). After processing an application for indexed tuition, Smart Aid will provide the school with a tuition recommendation that is subject to further review by our Indexed Tuition Committee.
In the course of applying for indexed tuition, you will complete a Supplemental Information Form that gives you the opportunity to address any unusual burdens or unique circumstances in your financial situation that the school should take into account.
We aspire to make admissions decisions without regard to a family’s financial resources — what is known as “need blind” admissions — and in that spirit will review applications for admission separately from applications for indexed tuition. However, our operating budget is based on certain assumptions regarding the amount of tuition revenue that we must generate in order to hire our talented faculty and maintain small student-teacher ratios. For this reason, we may not extend final offers of admission until we have estimated the total tuition revenue that our student body is likely to generate as a whole.
If your financial circumstances remain the same and the school’s resources can continue to support the program to the same extent, your indexed tuition will be subject only to standard increases in the tuition. However, all families must reapply each year in order to confirm that their financial circumstances have not changed to a degree that would justify an adjustment to their indexed tuition.
We are committed to covering all costs that are necessary for your child to participate fully in the life of the school, inside and outside of the classroom. For that reason, your indexed tuition covers not only the cost of instruction but also the cost of books and other educational materials, healthy lunches, outdoor education, field trips, athletic uniforms, and transportation services to certain points throughout the region.