Beacon Academy brings a new learning environment to Evanston


Old school meets new school.

Two schools share one city, but have many differences from each other.

“What we are doing is reimagining what a high school can be,” says Beacon Academy Head of School Jeff Bell. “It hasn’t changed much in last 50 years. Think about cars or rocket ships or computers in 1966. Then, let’s think about high school.”

Beacon Academy is a private high school on Davis Street in Evanston. It was founded just two years ago, but the population of the school is increasing exponentially. The school has 82 kids this year and is looking to have over 125 next year. Currently, their average class size is 12.

Beacon Academy draws in kids from all over Illinois. According to the Beacon website, 49% of the students live in Chicago, where the other 51% come from the North Shore. The students are also very diverse, similar to ETHS. Over 20% of students are students of color.

“I really like the diversity of the school,” says Beacon freshman Alli Sharifi. “Everyone is different and has different aspirations and passions which makes it really cool.”

Based on curriculum, ETHS and Beacon are not that different from one another. One major difference is the advanced program the students at Beacon follow. They do the IB program, which is very similar to AP. It is an accelerated program for juniors and seniors.

As of now, IB is not taught in many schools in the US. According to US News, only about 800 schools use the IB curriculum compared to the 14,000 schools that use AP curriculum. AP tends to follow one specific subject, while IB takes a larger approach. They focus on how it impacts the whole world. Nevertheless, students can earn college credit with either one.

“Beacon is really focused on helping you learn about how everything matters in your life and how it ties together,” says Beacon sophomore Anne Raspe. “I hardly ever wonder ‘Why am I learning this?’”

The rest of the curriculum is rather similar. The order of classes is a bit different in some areas. For example, at Beacon the students take U.S. History before World History. They are allowed to dig deeper into subjects by following a block schedule rather than ETHS’ single period schedule.

“Our teachers are highly creative. We follow state guidelines as far as graduation credits,” says Bell. “But they can deliver their own material because it is not dictated by the state.”

Beacon is also different in their connections with Evanston for arts classes. ETHS offers Fine Arts in the school, whereas Beacon uses resources in Evanston for it. Their theater classes are through Piven Theater, their art classes are through Evanston Art Center, and their music classes through the Musical Offering. In addition, their PE classes take place at the YMCA.

“It is a lot of hands on work and not as many lectures and it allows you to know everyone, so it isn’t like you’re swimming in a huge ocean,” says Anne.

Beacon Academy certainly has differences from ETHS. However, it truly depends on the person to have the right school for you. For more information on Beacon Academy go to their website at