The Model School, According to Two Million Minutes
A post on the Two Million Minutes blog reveals the subject of the newest documentary: the BASIS charter school in Arizona. Bob Compton describes the school as “low-cost, high performance, easily replicable.”
I’ve read some BASIS publications and parents’ reviews online, and it sounds like BASIS offers a challenging curriculum that most parents are very happy with.
The catch? It’s tiny. There are about a dozen students in each of the highest grades. More students attend the middle school, but there are fewer than 100 students in almost every grade. Based on the information available at publicschoolreview.com, only three percent of students are black or Hispanic.
I don’t want to imply that those facts detract from BASIS’s achievements; schools vary in size and demographic makeup. But I don’t see BASIS as an easily replicable model to improve U.S. education. The gap in test scores between whites and minorities is one of the most pressing issues education reformers grapple with, and a school that teaches few minority students doesn’t look like a promising model — unless it can show that its approach works with a diverse student body. Not only has BASIS failed to demonstrate success in closing that gap, but the school’s small size suggests that kids who are already doing well are self-selecting in. This is a common argument against lending too much credence to the high test scores that some charters achieve, and although I disagree with the argument in most cases, it’s hard to defend a school against that charge when it has only 13 kids in a grade.
In addition, BASIS’s small class sizes can’t be replicated across the U.S. school system without hiring many more teachers, which would be anything but “low cost.”
It could be that I just don’t know enough about BASIS, and that Two Million Minutes is on to something. I’ll keep following the coverage of Two Million Minutes, in case I’ve missed any evidence that the BASIS model has been scaled up.