Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts (ASMSA) in Hot Springs (Garland County) is the only public residential high school in the state and one of only fourteen state-supported residential math and science schools in the nation. Its mission is to educate gifted and talented eleventh and twelfth grade students in Arkansas who have an interest and aptitude in mathematics, sciences, or the fine and performing arts. In addition, the school is expected to develop curricula and materials to improve instruction of mathematics, sciences, and fine and performing arts for all students in the state. As of 2015, the school educates approximately 230 students on its residential campus and more than 3,000 students in 60 counties through its distance education program.
The idea for establishing a residential math and science school in Arkansas was originally conceived in 1990 by Hillary Clinton, the state’s first lady, and Dr. Ronald Hart, the director of the National Center for Toxicological Research in Jefferson (Jefferson County). Clinton then recommended it to her husband, Governor Bill Clinton, as a way of helping the state meet the national education goal of having the United States produce the best math and science students in the world by the year 2000. The Arkansas School for Mathematics and Sciences (ASMS) was founded in 1991 by an act of the Arkansas General Assembly. The school opened in 1993, following a lengthy site selection and renovation process. ASMS officially became ASMSA in 2004 after the state legislature passed an act mandating that the school add an arts program. The act also moved the school into the University of Arkansas System (previously, the school had been under the direction of the Arkansas Department of Education).
ASMSA is a free public boarding school where students take an accelerated curriculum of advanced college-level classes. Students apply for admission during their sophomore year by submitting an application that must include outstanding academic records, ACT or SAT test scores, and good teacher evaluations. After students are admitted, the state pays for each student’s tuition, room, and board. ASMSA offers advanced courses that most public schools cannot, such as vector calculus, biomedical physics, and ancient Greek literature. All teachers have master’s degrees, and some hold doctorates.
In addition to its residential program, ASMSA has an extensive distance education program that provides expanded course offerings to school districts throughout the state. The Office of Distance Education (ODE) offers interactive video courses through the Internet that consist of full-length (semester or year-long) classes in virtually all disciplines. All courses taught by ODE are those requested by school districts throughout the state to help students meet state graduation requirements. The individual school districts determine eligibility for student enrollment. In the 2009–10 school year, ODE taught nearly 3,700 students in 75 of Arkansas’s 245 school districts, six other states, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.
Students at ASMSA have earned notable academic honors and scholarships. In 1994, the school led the state in the number of National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. The class of 1998 earned the eighth-highest average ACT score in the nation. ASMSA also leads the state in the dollar amount of scholarships earned by its graduates. In 2009, ASMSA’s ninety-five graduates accumulated $9.8 million in college scholarships. Altogether, 1,573 graduates have earned more than $118 million in scholarships and grants as of 2010.
After two years of construction, ASMSA dedicated a new student center on May 24, 2012. The 80,000-square-foot building will provide students with new residence halls, a library, kitchen and dining facilities, lounge areas, as well as hold offices for the Residential Life staff, security, and the school nurse. The building replaces student living space in the former Saint Joseph’s Mercy Hospital building.
For additional information:
Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts. http://www.asmsa.org (accessed May 30, 2012).
Robbins, Chris.“Distance Education: The Arkansas Experience.” NCSSSMST Journal 15.1 (2009): 20–21. http://www.ncsssmst.org/conf/100100/Journal_Fall09_webF.pdf (accessed January 7, 2010).
Stephens, Kristen R. “Residential Math and Science High Schools: A Closer Look.” Journal of Secondary Gifted Education 10.2 (1999): 85–92.
Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts