I had the privilege recently of spending a day with Ms. Donna Orem, president of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). Orem met with a select group of school leaders to discuss the changing market for independent schools in Tennessee and across the nation. Her presentation was revelatory, cautionary, and ultimately exciting for the rare schools like Baylor that provide for their students such a myriad of educational opportunities.
Orem shared that there are many headwinds facing private schools in this era beginning with demographic trends forecasting a stagnant, if not shrinking, population of school-age children during the next decade. She went on to explain how millennial parents are more frequently choosing their children’s educational experiences as if ordering off an “a la carte” menu at a restaurant by choosing less expensive or free scholastic options as “the main course” and then supplementing that schooling with tutoring, test prep, club sports, and other customized options as “sides and dessert.” The independent schools that will thrive in this environment, Orem opined, will be schools that can offer core excellence, plus differentiated student experiences, all built on the foundation of shared community values. All I could think of was “That is Baylor!”
While many understand the extraordinary breadth and depth of our programs, it is worth pausing to note a few highlights on this page and throughout this issue of Baylor magazine.
Global Scholars: From the sixth grade through graduation, Baylor demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to global scholarship by offering five world languages – Chinese, French, German, Latin, and Spanish – and a post-AP Chinese course. Language fluency forms the foundation for our Global Scholars Program that includes other internationally-focused courses such as AP Human Geography and culminates with the completion of a digital portfolio. Finally, Baylor’s Global Scholars have purposeful travel experiences through any one of the six school-sponsored trips abroad, not to mention exchange opportunities with our ten partnering international schools!
Advanced Scientific Research & Engineering: Few schools in the nation can boast of curricular offerings beyond AP science courses to include college-level research in engineering, biomedical, and environmental fields of study. These courses allow students to sharpen the hands-on skills that were introduced in prior science classes and to further their proficiency in techniques associated with molecular and cell biology, engineering design, or advanced computing. Several offerings require extended hours of work, collaboration with university professors and other researchers, and the production of a poster or scientific manuscript. Some students have already submitted papers for presentations at professional conferences, for publication, and at national science competitions.
Civic Scholars: Recognizing the profound need for 21st Century citizens to understand the underpinnings of our American republic, the philosophy of the free enterprise system, and the responsibilities of global citizenship and civic engagement, Baylor is launching a Civic Scholars Program for the 2019-20 academic year. With an academic foundation of ethics and civics, U.S. history, American government, and the history of law, Baylor Civic Scholars will focus on further academic study and servant leadership through involvement in some combination of Model UN, Harvard Model Congress, mock trial, the Jamaica Service Leadership Trip, the Harris-Stanford Honors Program, the Abshire Civic Leadership Fellows Program, Baylor Community Service, the Honor Council, the Student Leadership Board, the MLK Leadership Team, or a non-Baylor experience as approved by the program coordinator.
So, the student pathways to pursue advanced and independent study at Baylor have never been richer or timelier for both our students and our society! Of course, Baylor’s athletic and extracurricular offerings continue to be beyond compare among our peer group of schools. Still, given all that our amazing school offers our students, these opportunities are bound together by a profound quality that is underscored by our school motto: amat victora curam (victory loves care). One parent put it this way in a note to me at year’s end: “…when I try to explain to people what makes Baylor so special and different, the one thing that matters most – everyone at Baylor cares so much about the kids and their well-being. All the rest of the good stuff flows from there.”