BASIS.ed folks are sometimes pressed for advice by families when they are choosing a school. We are most often asked “what’s most important” for parents to look for, to seek, and to notice during that process.
And our answers are invariably something like, what do you want for your child? He or she is your guide to what’s truly ‘most important’ – because what’s most important is what’s most important to your family.
At BASIS.ed, we know that it’s your job as parents to determine what’s best for your family, and that schools must be open and transparent about their learning culture. As parents ourselves, we understand that choosing a school is an eminently personal decision comprised of numerous factors – about the prospective school, of course, but also about your child.
And we, like you, know exactly why that is.
It’s precisely what acclaimed Time education reporter and author Amanda Ripley wrote in her 2013 New York Times bestseller “The Smartest Kids In The World (And How They Got That Way)”.
It is important to note here that Ripley’s book is a wonderful read, and not just because BASIS.ed schools are mentioned. It’s a breezy page-turner that’s at once chock full of data, and filled with fascinating anecdotes about kids in classrooms across the country and around the world, highlighting differences and trumpeting why great schools are great.
In particular, please check out her Appendix I – “How to spot a world class education” — on pages 207-218.
Back to what’s most important about choosing a school. As Ripley writes:
“Every child is different. An outstanding school for one child would be hell on earth for another. Still, when it comes to finding a school that is both rigorous and alive, full of spirit and learning, there are a few reliable questions to ask… based on what I have seen from visiting schools on four continents.”
Ripley continues, and suggests that you:
“Watch the students … The best way to gauge the quality of a school is to spend time – even just twenty minutes – visiting classrooms while school is in session…
“Watch for signs that all the kids are paying attention, interested in what they are doing, and working hard…
“Don’t check for signs of order; sometimes learning happens in noisy places…
“Remember that rigorous learning actually looks rigorous…
“Resist the urge to focus on the teacher. In the best classrooms in the world, the teacher might be quiet…
What you think of the teacher during a short visit is not as important as what the kids think after watching her all year…
“Talk to the students…
“Listen to the parents…
“Ask the principal hard questions…
How do you choose your teachers?
How do you make your teachers better?
How do you measure success?
How do you make sure the work is rigorous enough?
How do you keep raising the bar to find out what kids can do?”
We couldn’t agree more. We have sat with students and siblings, and moms and dads, and answered these questions for countless families – a great many who enrolled in our schools, and a great many who did not.
This is your process, for your family – and you are in charge. Your ownership of it is vital – for you and your child, and ultimately for us as well.
Recently, the College Board sent several of their educators to visit BASIS charter schools in Arizona. (The College Board is the national higher education non-profit that administers the SAT and the Advanced Placement Program, including AP exams).
They came because they can discern what’s happening in a school the same way Amanda Ripley suggests: by watching and speaking to students. They want the pulse of the people who teach AP classes and administer AP exams, and they know how to take it. They know what to look for. And – because you know your child so well – you know what to look for, too.
(Click on this link to check out the College Board’s blog post about their visit to BASIS.ed.)
Schools are an intimate part of kids’ lives, and thus an intimate part of parents’ lives, too. Teachers are central characters, classrooms are a primary everyday place, home rooms are a second home, and the schoolhouse is where friends and notions and thoughts and dreams appear.
If you’re one of our families reading this, we know you know this – and we appreciate your input into, and your ownership of, your child’s education. We get it. It’s why BASIS.ed exists.
And, if you’re considering a school, we hope your search is fruitful in whatever manner you measure success!
Should you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact us at BASISedBlog@basised.com.