Great Hearts Academies

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Great Hearts Academies
Great Hearts logo.jpg
Great Hearts logo
TypeNon-profit Charter School Management Organization
MottoClassical Education, Revolutionary Schools

Great Hearts Academies is a non-profit charter school management organization that operates a network of primary, middle, and high schools in the Phoenix, Arizona Metropolitan area and in San Antonio and Irving, Texas.[1]

In Arizona, Great Hearts Academies had 7,469 students enrolled for the 2013-14 school year.


Great Hearts is a K-12 charter school that offers a humanities-based liberal arts education to the public, tuition free.[2] It focuses on a core reading list filled with Great Books called Classics to Keep.[2] The Archway campuses, the elementary schools of the network, teaches phonics, spelling, handwriting, and grammar as a part of their classical curriculum. Additionally, they use the Core Knowledge curriculum (designed by E.D. Hirsch) for teaching in-depth and chronological world history and American history and geography as well as studio art and music.[3] They use Singapore Math as their math curriculum and offer foreign language such as (depending on the school) Spanish, French, or Latin.[2]

At the prep school level (middle and high school), students are required to study literature and composition and later humanities, as well as laboratory sciences and competitive athletics.[2] Great Hearts only offers one track of studies.[2]

Great Hearts Academy graduates proceed immediately to college or university at a rate of 98 percent, with 54 percent pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses of study. Six of the top 20 charter schools in Phoenix are in the Great Hearts system, and Great Hearts students achieve SAT scores more than 300 points higher than the national average.[4][better source needed]


Great Hearts Texas is a sister network to Great Hearts Arizona and its twenty three academies. Great Hearts Texas has three schools in San Antonio, and one in Irving. Great Hearts Irving is dividing their school into the upper school and lower school. They currently do not have a gym. They are going to combine the two schools which will provide the lower school with a gym.


Policy on transgender students[edit]

In June 2016, the Great Hearts corporate Board of Directors adopted a policy that requires their transgender students to align all school activities with their biological sex, rather than the student's gender identity.[5] The student's participation in extracurricular clubs, sports, and the use of facilities such as restrooms all must align with the sex of the student as printed on his or her birth certificate. This requirement extends further to Great Hearts' gendered hair cutting standards, school uniform requirements, "girls line/boys line" classroom management, and daily pronoun usage.[6]

Great Hearts' policy on transgender students is strongly opposed by local LGBT organizations and transgender advocates.[7] Opponents to the policy argue that Great Hearts has chosen to ignore clear guidance from the medical and psychological communities regarding how best to support their transgender student population.[8]

Great Hearts argues that, since the civil rights of the transgender population is not yet a matter of settled law in the United States, the Board of Directors will define school policy in line with current statutory guidance and use the birth certificate as the official document that defines a student's gender.[5]

Local reaction[edit]

On April 25, 2017, the city council of Scottsdale, Arizona discussed whether to move forward with exploring a land agreement between the city and Great Hearts Academies to build an athletic complex near the community of DC Ranch. The City Council cited concerns they have before finalizing any agreement with Great Hearts, chief among them the Great Hearts policy on transgender students.[9][10]

The Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a strongly worded press release opposing the city's partnership with Great Hearts until the discriminatory policy is replaced.[11] Great Hearts abandoned the land deal with the City of Scottsdale in favor of purchasing land adjacent to their already-established high school.[12]

Haircut standards[edit]

In February 2018, Teleos Preparatory Academy in Phoenix, part of the Great Hearts charter school system, notified one of their students that his hairstyle did not conform to the school's policy standard. The child's family argued that he was targeted because he was not white.[13] Great Hearts responded with a statement reinforcing their policy of no braided hair on boys and that Great Hearts was "sorry to see this family leave the Teleos Prep community... we fully respect their decision to do so."[14]

The Arizona chapter of the ACLU together with Black Mothers Forum, a local advocacy organization, called on Great Hearts to eliminate their discriminatory grooming standards.[15] Eight days later, Great Hearts offered to make a policy exception and readmit the family. The family refused.[16][17]

Homework assignment on slavery[edit]

In April 2018, Great Hearts apologized after one of their teachers in Texas assigned homework in which students were to list the pros and cons of being a slave.[18] Social media spread the story of the homework assignment nationwide, sparking outrage.[19][20][21] In response, Great Hearts issued a statement condemning the homework assignment.[22][23]

Although the same homework assignment had been given in the past, the teacher who gave the assignment was reprimanded and briefly placed on leave.[23] He was reinstated after remedial training was complete.[24]


  1. ^ "Great Hearts Academies - Great Hearts Academies". Great Hearts Academies. Retrieved 2018-09-22.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Curriculum Overview - Great Hearts Academies". Great Hearts Academies. Retrieved 2017-05-31.
  3. ^ "Core Knowledge Foundation | Building knowledge and community". Core Knowledge Foundation. Retrieved 2017-05-31.
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b "Great Hearts - Scottsdale Preparatory Academy - Family Handbook" (PDF). External link in |website= (help)
  6. ^ "Transgender Student Says Arizona Great Hearts Academies' Policy Is Discriminatory". KJZZ. 2017-04-19. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  7. ^ "Great Hearts Transgender Policy". Great Hearts Transgender Policy. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  8. ^ Olson, Kristina R.; Durwood, Lily; DeMeules, Madeleine; McLaughlin, Katie A. (2016-02-26). "Mental Health of Transgender Children Who Are Supported in Their Identities". Pediatrics: peds.2015–3223. doi:10.1542/peds.2015-3223. ISSN 0031-4005. PMC 4771131. PMID 26921285.
  9. ^ "Scottsdale Councilwoman: Great Hearts Must Change Transgender Policy To Partner With City". KJZZ. 2017-04-27. Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  10. ^ "Scottsdale City Council approves initiation of DC Ranch park planning". Scottsdale Independent. 2017-04-26. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  11. ^ "ACLU of Arizona Urges Scottsdale to Refuse Park Partnership with Great Hearts Academies". ACLU of Arizona. 2017-04-19. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  12. ^ "Great Hearts Academies pulls out of controversial Scottsdale park plan". azcentral. Retrieved 2018-04-21.
  13. ^ FOX. "Valley family says their son is being forced to leave his charter school, because of his hair braids". KSAZ. Retrieved 2018-04-21.
  14. ^ Pelton, Mike (2018-02-02). "Mom pulls son out of school after he's told he violated dress code with braids". KNXV. Retrieved 2018-04-21.
  15. ^ "ACLU of Arizona, Black Mothers Forum Call on Great Hearts Public Charter Schools to Eliminate Discriminatory Grooming Policies". ACLU of Arizona. 2018-02-06. Retrieved 2018-04-21.
  16. ^ FOX. "Charter school promises to revise hair policy, amidst controversy". KSAZ. Retrieved 2018-04-21.
  17. ^ "Phoenix charter school apologizes after student with braids was sent home". azcentral. Retrieved 2018-04-21.
  18. ^ CNN, Paul P. Murphy,. "Homework assignment asks students to list positive aspects of slavery". CNN. Retrieved 2018-04-21.
  19. ^ "Texas School Apologizes After Teacher Asks Students To Find The Positive Aspects Of Slavery". Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  20. ^ "Texas school apologizes for asking students to list 'positive aspects' of slavery". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  21. ^ "Teacher keeps job after asking kids to list 'positives' of slavery". New York Post. 2018-05-11. Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  22. ^ "Great Hearts Monte Vista". Retrieved 2018-04-21.
  23. ^ a b Radio, Camille Phillips, Texas Public. "San Antonio Teacher Placed On Leave After Assigning Students To List Benefits Of Slavery". Retrieved 2018-04-21.
  24. ^ "Great Hearts will reinstate San Antonio teacher who assigned 'positives' of slavery worksheet". San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved 2018-06-24.