Our story begins with the opening of Intellectual Virtues Academy middle school (IVA) in 2013-14. IVA is a successful non-profit authorized by the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) in 2012. This school was founded by a group of close friends, which include, Dr. Jason Baehr, a professor at Loyola Marymount University, and leading expert in intellectual virtue epistemology, and Dr. Steve Porter, an associate professor at Biola University’s Rosemead Graduate School of Psychology, whose research focuses on the dynamics of personal formation and change. Both schools (IVA and the Academy) have been designed to implement an intellectual virtues model as a dynamic demonstration of 21st century education, based on cutting edge research and the “best thinking” in education, psychology, neuroscience, and more.
In 2015, Founding Director James McGrath, Dr. Baehr, and Board Chairman Dr. Eric Churchill secured a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation, whose goal was to expand the success of the middle school into a new Long Beach public high school. Intellectual Virtues Academy, A Long Beach Public High School (Academy) was designed to leverage numerous university partnerships – including researchers from Harvard, Calvin College, Loyola, Boston University, and Biola – to provide a comprehensive college preparatory curriculum to equip students beginning in ninth grade with the skills, judgment, knowledge, and dispositions needed to be successful for college. We ultimately seek to foster intellectual character growth in all of our students, closing the achievement gap for our high school students. Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE).
In 2016, the Academy opened its doors to its first ninth grade class, the Class of 2020. The Academy is closely connected to cutting-edge educational research on intellectual character education. Founder and board member Dr. Jason Baehr is director of the Intellectual Virtues and Education Project at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. The Academy and IVA's curriculum and teaching model make significant use of Harvard's Project Zero research, especially the work of Ron Ritchhart and his colleagues.
The Academy and IVA middle school was founded by a group of parents, educators, and community members who love Long Beach and are passionate about public education. Founders and board members include public school teachers, a charter school administrator and social worker, four university professors, a scientist, a university administrator, a marketing and advertising expert, a graphic designer, a human resources expert, a corporate VP, a finance and real estate expert, and an attorney.
WHAT IS AN INTELLECTUAL VIRTUES EDUCATION?
The goal of an intellectual virtues educational model is to foster meaningful growth in the personal qualities of a good thinker or learner: curiosity, wonder, attentiveness, open-mindedness, creativity, intellectual tenacity, and related traits. Intellectual virtues are sometimes referred to as “habits of mind,” “thinking dispositions,” or “non-cognitive skills,” and include grit and persistence.
Teaching for intellectual virtues is not an alternative to teaching rigorous academic content. Rather, rigorous content provides an opportunity for teachers to foster intellectual character growth. The Academy's curriculum is closely aligned with the recently adopted Common Core State Standards. Our teachers approach the curriculum thoughtfully and reflectively so that students may develop a deep understanding of the material and practice good thinking, while mastering the standards.
The Academy’s focus on intellectual character transforms the typical teacher-student interaction, student-student interaction, and even teacher-teacher interaction. Our model encourages discussion, argument, deep conceptual understanding, and metacognition -- the ability to decide when and how to use a particular problem-solving strategy. Our intellectual virtues model also determines our homework (home thinking) and grading policies.