Q. Chicago already has so many public, private, and parochial school options. Why did you start another school?

A. Our school offers an innovative and challenging approach to education that is student-centered and dynamic. In a 2011 survey of 950 parents from Chicago-area Montessori schools, 86% expressed strong interest in seeing the creation of a Chicagoland Montessori-based high school. We are a school open to both Montessori and non-Montessori students; we look for students who are excited about participating in creating the next great Chicago-area high school.

Q. Isn’t Montessori for little kids?

A. When Maria Montessori developed her educational philosophy, it was not intended to be limited to only the younger ages. Montessori’s theories of curiosity, independence and self-directed, experiential learning are as applicable to teenagers as they are to toddlers. There are many Montessori high schools around the world, and sixteen here in the United States, that educate both Montessori and non-Montessori students..

Q. What makes Beacon different from other high schools?

A. Students “learn by doing.” We have abundant opportunities for hands-on investigation, student-centered discussions, experimentation, critical thinking and fieldwork. Moving beyond the traditional conception of a “classroom,” students at Beacon Academy engage in fieldwork and apprenticeships with experts with whom they can problem-solve, collaborate and contribute to ongoing projects of far-reaching significance. Beacon is a community school in the strongest sense of the word with Evanston and greater Chicago serving as our extended campus.

Q. How does Beacon prepare students for their futures?

A. Beacon coaches students to be independent and self directed learners. Our goal is to inspire lifelong learners who know how to gain new skills and acquire and evaluate new information throughout their lives. Our diverse school community will also help students to be comfortable navigating relationships beyond the comfort zone of their own neighborhoods.

Q. What sort of college counseling and support services are available?

A. Our college counseling office is staffed with two experienced counselors. Guided by a “best fit” approach, we offer comprehensive, four year college counseling centered on personal discovery, self awareness, and ethical decision making. As our students discover how they learn best and what they value most, we lead students and families through a thoughtful college discernment process that includes career exploration, college list formation, financial aid counseling, standardized test preparation, personal statement composition, and application process navigation. We partner with students, families, and higher education professionals to offer dynamic college counseling programming throughout the school year. Our counselors are active and engaged members of NACAC, IACAC, and ACCIS, traveling to and presenting at professional conferences, upholding ethical standards in the college admissions process, and visiting dozens of college campuses each year to promote and advance the mission of Beacon Academy.

Q. How do you ensure that students have equal consideration in the college admission process, compared with students from more established schools?

A. Our college counselor is an experienced professional with established relationships with many college and university admissions offices. We will be building on those relationships as the school gets established. We will also encourage our students to participate in city and statewide academic programs and competitions to help establish Beacon’s reputation.

Q. How are students assessed? Do you have grades?

A. Students receive numeric grades and a narrative assessment after each semester. The narrative assessments help students to identify their strengths and opportunities for improvements. At the midpoint of each term, students are issued a midterm report in order to help them monitor their own progress. Beacon students are formally assessed at the close of each term with a grade and a narrative comment from the teacher that addresses the specifics of the student’s performance. Additionally, students are asked to participate in written self-assessments of their progress and struggles in a given course at the end of each term.