Things I Like About the BASIS Charter Schools
I wrote in my last post about BASIS that the schools haven’t yet demonstrated the potential to scale up to a level that would change the education system. BASIS has helped small classes of motivated students excel, which is a praiseworthy accomplishment. But if the United States is to compete with India and China, the education system will have to find a way to reach the students who are several grades behind, who don’t speak English, or who aren’t on the lookout for accelerated schools that don’t advertise. And they will have to succeed with more than a few hundred students.
With that said, I agree completely with Bob Compton’s statement in the comments: “My conclusion is every community should have at least one BASIS Charter school.” I would be very happy for this choice to be available to parents everywhere. Even if BASIS fails to have a broad, transformational effect on American eduction, it’s still a good school, and the option should be there for people who want it.
These are some things BASIS does that I hope other schools will emulate:
- BASIS pays teachers according to their performance. This system attracts good teachers and rewards them for teaching well. Here, BASIS is a bright spot in U.S. education; the vast majority of schools instead reward seniority or other factors that are irrelevant to student learning.
- BASIS teachers are knowledgeable in the subjects they teach. Although I find the requirement that teachers have a graduate degree in their subject to be somewhat arbitrary — the most important qualification is that they have expertise, not a diploma — these teachers are better prepared than their counterparts in other schools, who often earn degrees in education theory without bothering to study the information they’re supposed to convey to students.
- BASIS doesn’t require a test for admissions, nor does it ask entering students to prove “giftedness.” BASIS reminds me of a gifted-and-talented magnet, with one important difference: The students don’t have to be gifted. Undoubtedly, the admissions process involves a lot of self-selection, but that’s a better form of selection than the one practiced by traditional accelerated schools. It’s unfair when a high-level middle school education is limited to those who passed intelligence tests. At BASIS, it may be that not all students can keep up, but at least the lottery winners can give it their best try.