What is the Intellectual Virtues Academy?

The Academy is a public charter high school, grades 9-12. We welcomed our first class of ninth grade students in August 2016, and now have 9th and 10th grades. Next year, we will have grades 9-11. As the name suggests, the school focuses on fostering “intellectual virtues” or what some education theorists call “habits of mind,” “thinking dispositions,” or “non-cognitive skills.” In addition to state public school funding, we are also funded by grants. As of 2017, we have been awarded a $2 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation and a PCSGP grant of $350,000. The Academy is leading the way for character based education, and works collaboratively with college professors and educational researchers. 


What are “intellectual virtues” and why are they important?

In short, they are the personal qualities of a good thinker or learner – traits like curiosity, wonder, open- mindedness, and intellectual perseverance or “grit”. Intellectual virtues involve the best practices for human thinking, whether the area of study is math, history, or any other subject. These qualities are highly sought after by colleges and employers when they are looking for prospective students and employees.  


Does the Academy have a pathway?

We want our students to follow their passions, knowing that their passions might change and evolve over the course of their high school career. We realize that our world is rapidly evolving, therefore jobs are changing. Students should not be preparing for only one job, but for college, career, and life. A solid intellectual and social character foundation will help prepare them for multiple pathways, not just one way. 

This year we are beginning to explore a passion-driven course called Innovation Lab, in which students propose a project that is rooted in their own personal interests. Innovation Lab is a project-based, passion-driven course in which students can have time and space to create their own learning experiences and collaborate with experts from around the world. The focus is on self-discovery and the pursuit of curiosity and knowledge building.

There will be a reversal of traditional roles in the classroom where students will be in charge of their own learning as the teacher remains available for support and guidance. The teacher’s role will be to help students achieve their goals and help facilitate learning, help manage projects, and make connections. Essentially, this course will provide students with experiences to grow by collaborating, creating a culture of positive failure, and allowing them the freedom to research and pursue what is important to them by establishing a culture of innovation and leadership.


Where can I learn more about the intellectual virtues?

There is an overwhelming amount of recent research in education, economics, neuroscience and other fields underscoring that success in life and school does not come from intelligence alone, but also from “non-cognitive skills” like curiosity, attentiveness, and open-mindedness – the intellectual virtues. Books on the subject include Paul Tough’s recent bestseller How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character and Scott Seider’s Character Compass. You are also encouraged to visit intellectualvirtues.org.


Where is the Academy located?

Intellectual Virtues Academy (Academy), has secured a location in the Wrigley/Washington neighborhoods of Long Beach at 1637 Long Beach Boulevard, Long Beach, California 90813. The location provides spacious classrooms, a front office, a counseling office, an indoor/outdoor lunch area, and staff work stations fully-built out. The campus was purchased by Millworks, who transforms architecturally intriguing spaces for non-profit and community use. The facility is located just off Pacific Coast Highway and Long Beach Boulevard, offering easy access to the school through the Blue Line and several different Long Beach Transit lines.


How many students go to the Academy?

In the first year, the Academy welcomed its first class of ninth graders, approx. 50 students. The Academy will add the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades in the following three years as the founding class approaches graduation, for a maximum total of 480 students. By design, Academy students are members of a small, caring, and thoughtful educational community focused on equipping students to think: creatively, critically, and with the capacity for self-growth.


Does the Academy have a dress code or uniform?

To promote unity and academic success, the Academy requires students to follow the Dress Code. This Dress Code is meant to give students some flexibility and versatility while also giving clear guidelines about what is acceptable so that our work and interactions at school are focused on teaching, learning, and community building. In order to develop a cohesive community, we find it important to align ourselves with a collegial and college bound culture. The Academy has adopted the following general guidelines to enhance student achievement, create a safe and distraction-free learning environment, foster school pride, and operate free from hazard or threat to students’ health, safety, and general welfare.   Fostering a sense of self-respect Supporting students to be leaders Maintaining a serious commitment to academics Promoting a safe community for all our students    See more details about the dress code under the "Students" link on our homepage.  


Does the Academy welcome students with special needs, Individual Education Plans (IEPs), 504 Plans? How about English Language (EL) Students?

Absolutely!  Our school services students with disabilities in a least restricted environment, based on an inclusion model. We have a full time Special Education teacher on staff with additional support staff to provide intervention services. As a small school, we meet with each family in order to meet the unique needs of our students with a differentiated instruction. Additionally, we weave the ELD standards throughout our program and provide additional support for EL students. The Academy functions as a local education agency (LEA) and have a Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) for purposes of providing special education and related services pursuant to Education Code §47641(b). In other words, the Academy oversees all Special Education providers and services ensuring that all of its students have access to a free and appropriate public education.


How does an intellectual virtues-based education model differ from other models?

The focus of an intellectual virtues approach is deeply personal in the sense that it is about nurturing personal qualities like curiosity, wonder, intellectual perseverance, intellectual courage and open- mindedness. Therefore, the ultimate goal of an intellectual virtues approach is much richer and more meaningful than, say, the achievement of high scores on standardized tests. In addition, an intellectual virtues approach is academically rigorous. This is because intellectual virtues aim to develop a deep understanding and wise application of important knowledge. They demand much more than short-term memorization of isolated facts.

The model also meaningfully defines certain familiar, but all too often vague education ideals, like a love of learning. We believe that to have a genuine love of learning or to be a life-long learner, is to possess a range of intellectual virtues like curiosity, reflectiveness, a love of knowledge, intellectual determination and perseverance, open-mindedness, fair-mindedness, creativity, imagination, intellectual honesty and integrity. What makes this model unique is that it involves exploring these concepts in detail and making them an explicit and central part of what goes on in the classroom on a day-to-day basis. As stated by Jason Baehr, an intellectual virtues thought leader and co-founder of Intellectual Virtues Academy,

“Society at large will benefit significantly from the training provided by an [intellectual virtue] education. To be trained in the intellectual virtues is to be trained to *think* and more specifically, to think deeply, carefully, and well. This is a kind of fulfillment or ‘perfection’ of human nature; as such, it is valuable in its own right. But knowing how to think deeply, carefully, and well is immensely valuable in all sectors of life. There is hardly a profession, line of work, or other vocational pursuit in human life that is not benefited by this ability. Accordingly, Intellectual Virtues Academy will graduate students with the skills and capacities to perform well in their chosen careers and to live thoughtful and intelligent lives.”


What does the Academy teach?

Fostering intellectual virtues is not an alternative to a rigorous standards-based curriculum. To the contrary, it is through an active and reflective engagement of core academic knowledge and skills that students learn to practice the intellectual virtues. Our curriculum will be aligned with, and promote, a genuine mastery of Common Core State Standards. The Academy offers college preparatory classes that competitively prepare students for a range of post-secondary options, such as UC and Cal State Universities. Check out our section on Educational Practices to get an idea of how innovative learning is a collaborative, interactive process at the Academy.


What does a typical day look like?

Academy students take six courses in ninth grade: English I (CP or H), Math (Algebra I), Biology, Physical Education/Health, Introduction to Philosophy, and Spanish. In 10th grade, students will take English II (CP or H), Math (Geometry CP or H), Conceptual Physics, Spanish II, Introduction to Logic, World History or Marine Biology. Students may also choose to extend their learning through honors courses. We can also adjust student's individual schedules as needed to accommodate for transfer courses. 


What is a charter school?

In 1992, the California Charter Schools Act was passed in order to encourage innovation and increase opportunities for students, families, and teachers within the public education sphere. A charter school is a tuition-free public school that operates independently from local school districts. As schools of choice, all charter schools are open to any student who wants to apply, regardless of where he or she lives within the state. If more students apply than space permits, charter schools are required to hold a lottery for admission. There are no admission tests or tuition fees at charter schools.

Charter schools have flexibility in the design of their school programs, their personnel decisions, and their resource allocation. In exchange for this freedom, public charter schools are held accountable for their school’s performance including student achievement, organizational and fiscal management, and stakeholder satisfaction. Charter schools are independently operated, but public, non-sectarian, non-profit, open enrollment schools.

The Academy has been charted through the Los Angeles Office of Education.

“Charter Schools are innovative public schools started by educators, parents and communities, open to students of every background or ability. But, they’re freer of red tape and top-down management than most of our schools are…Also, charter schools don’t divert taxpayer’s dollars from our public school system; instead, they use those dollars to promote excellence and competition within the system and in doing so, they spur all our public schools to improve.” – President Bill Clinton, 1999


What does the school calendar look like?

The yearly calendar and holidays will largely mirror the Long Beach Unified School District’s calendar. You can view the calendar under the resources link. The Academy’s school day begins at 8:15 a.m. and ends at 3:27 p.m., except for Thursdays, when dismissal is 1:57 p.m. to allow time for faculty dismissal. A block schedule is listed under our resources link.


Who teaches at the Academy?

The Academy is committed to providing the very best teachers in every classroom. They are dedicated, innovative, engaging, passionate professionals that care deeply about your child’s growth and success. Click here to learn more about the Academy faculty.


What electives will you offer?

Although we are a small school, it is important for us to offer course to not only prepare students for college acceptance, but to offer creative and formative elective courses. Freshmen electives are built into their schedule (Introduction to Philosophy and Spanish I). For tenth grade, students will be taking a UC/CSU aligned Spanish II and Marine Biology or World History courses for one year. We will also be offering a Visual Arts course.


What about extra-curricular activities?

We learn about ourselves through sports, music, art, theatre and related extra-curricular programs and we believe that makes such activities extremely worthwhile pursuits. As such, the Academy is committed to science/engineering, athletics, the arts, and a rich blend of extracurricular activities for all students. 

Since the Academy is a smaller school, students have numerous opportunities to participate and serve as leaders. We believe in developing holistic students who are exposed to a variety of activities. We believe you do not have to be an athlete to play sports, a professional artist to produce art, or be an inspiring engineer to take robotics. We believe students can have multiple interests and develop potential in a variety of areas.

As a charter school, we have developed, and continue to develop partnerships to help provide unique extra-curricular activities. We have identified competent coaches, instructors, and skilled parent volunteers who are interested in offering instruction generated by the passion and interest of students. Students have the autonomy to propose new clubs by submitting a club request form. Some of our current offerings include: Cultural Drumming, Theatre, Robotics, Leadership, and Yearbook. We have also offered photography, debate, skate club, green club and more. Visit our extra-curricular section to learn more. What club do you want to bring to the Academy?