The BASIS Diploma

The BASIS Diploma prepares students to fully participate in the dynamic, exciting and unpredictable world of the 21st Century. Students who earn this diploma grow in our classrooms to love learning and the pursuit of deeper understanding. They experience the delight of mastering fields of complex knowledge and of developing the habits of disciplined, critical enquiry. Above all they have the best possible educational foundation to be independent and resourceful problem solvers and to face future challenges. It is their choice what career opportunities they pursue and intellectual decisions they make in the future. It is our job to fully prepare them to succeed in those choices.

The scope and sequence of the BASIS Diploma is determined by these practices.

We define opportunity for our students in GLOBAL terms. In the 21st Century we can no longer conceive of opportunity for the next generation as confined to a city, a state or even a nation. Hence, we commit to teaching our students to the highest global standards so that they can win admission to the best universities in the world and compete in a global professional marketplace.

Founded by two economists, from our earliest days our schools have been committed to the smart, network-wide use of student performance data. We hold ourselves ACCOUNTABLE to use the insights this data provides to sustain and improve learning outcomes for our students.

We teach our students to achieve MASTERY of the foundational academic disciplines and competencies, for it is that mastery which will empower their future lives and careers. In our classrooms they face extraordinary challenges, and they grow accustomed to the unwavering support of the faculty.

We have a course of study that is CONNECTED from the student's academic start in Preschool to its finish with Senior Projects. Our curriculum is carefully calibrated so that in every discipline and at every grade level, students are appropriately challenged and excited by their learning, and each year builds as a preparation for the challenges to come.

Our approach to the use of TECHNOLOGY in education is highly focused: we use technology to help us solve problems of scale, to help create the connective tissue that joins a network of schools into an integrated system with data-driven quality control and the sharing of best practices, and to ensure that curricular decisions and innovations are driven by our master teachers, not a top-down centralized bureaucracy.

In terms of the integration of technology in the classroom itself, we believe that technology is one of many tools available to teachers to engage and inspire students to take ownership of their learning experience. However, devices cannot replace the dynamic, CO-CREATIVE classroom interaction between teacher and student. We have developed our own tablet-based electronic learning platform to enhance, not replace the role of the teacher. Our belief is that technological competency with industry-standard hardware and software is a key skill necessary to thrive in our modern academic, professional and personal lives.

We create a learning culture in which diverse PERSPECTIVES are challenged and tested in an environment of informed thought and collegiality. Our students must be prepared to productively and decently navigate the uncertainty of the 21st Century landscape with a profound humility. By engaging with a variety of global perspectives, our students are empowered to make their own decisions about how they will navigate their world. As a learning community, we do not hide from the conflict and struggle that ensues. We revel in it as a vital component in the maturation of our students and the evolution of their most deeply held convictions.

The Teacher in the Classroom: Autonomy and Accountability

BASIS Curriculum Schools does not write curriculum; we manage it. What does that mean? It means that we choose the subjects to be taught and set the standards for the scope and sequence of instruction in that subject. Teachers who are new to BASIS Curriculum Schools quickly discover that ours is a system that balances the accountability of common high standards across the network with the pedagogic autonomy to develop innovative ways to meet these standards. BASIS Curriculum Schools will never hand a teacher a fully written curriculum for a course, but we will provide structured guidance in the form of common standards, common exams based on those standards, and a network of “Subject Advisors”— mentor teachers sprinkled throughout our schools—to assist and support.

The creative tension between the autonomy that our expert teachers value so highly, and the common aspects of shared accountability that enables BASIS Curriculum Schools to maintain academic quality control across the network, is the nexus at the heart of our classroom learning culture. We are able to preserve this level of autonomy for our teachers by agreeing upon these common principles.

We believe:

  • Children can achieve more than we have commonly been told. With hard work, dedication and the support of teachers and parents, 3rd graders can think critically, 6th graders can learn Physics, and High School students can read Critical Theory and Philosophy.
  • Instructional time is precious. Every minute of every class should be filled.
  • Mastering the basics is the precondition for going beyond them. Students learn to listen for the music of Shakespeare's iambic pentameter and to decipher the crucial details in an historical primary source, but they must also be able to parse the grammar of a sentence and craft concise and persuasive prose.
  • Homework, as long as it is an extension of what is being learned in the classroom, is valuable. Practice helps students achieve mastery.
  • High-stakes, summative tests that assess content mastery and learning skills (BASIS Curriculum Schools Comprehensive Exams and the College Board Advanced Placement Exams for example) are foundational for learning.
  • The evaluation of teacher performance must be based both on classroom instruction and on student learning results on high-stakes assessments.

The Student In The Classroom: The Academic Journey From Preschool To Senior Projects

Preschool and Kindergarten are both taught in self-contained classrooms. During these years, each classroom has an assigned Lead Teacher and a Teaching Fellow who has at least a Bachelor’s degree and who aspires to become a Lead Teacher. The Lead Teacher is responsible for most of the instruction. However, in specialized disciplines such as Mandarin and Engineering, a Subject Expert Teacher replaces the Lead Teacher.

The Preschool learning environment is carefully designed to encourage a child's natural curiosity to question, to create, and to discover. We focus on nurturing a rich, enjoyable, and intentional learning experience. Early Learning Teachers specifically facilitate opportunities for children to interact with materials in a thoughtful and intentional manner and encourage children to use their imagination and creativity to ask questions, and to use their own reasoning to organically learn from, and make connections to, the world around them.

Following on the heels of this program, Kindergarten lays the foundation for success in school during the years to come. This success is based not only on the acquisition of foundational concepts and skills, but also on the adoption of scholarly habits and the immersion in a culture which values learning above all other endeavors.

Starting in grade 1, BASIS Curriculum students are no longer in a self-contained classroom. In every discipline a Subject Expert (SET) who specializes in that discipline (Humanities, Math, Science, Engineering, Art, Mandarin, etc.) teaches the students. Across all disciplines, the Learning Expert (LET), who focuses on effective pedagogy, co-teaches with the Subject Expert (SET).

The role of the Learning Expert Teacher (LET) is to make sure that students understand what they are being taught, and that every individual student is working to the absolute best of his/her personal ability. The LET travels with his/her students throughout the school day and is always there to aid in the scholastic development of students. LETs provide a high level of progress monitoring, parent communication and enrichment to all students and their families.

The synergy of the SET and LET facilitates a relatively rapid transition from instruction in foundational skills and knowledge to independent thinking and active learning in the primary grades. Heavy emphasis is placed on making connections between disciplines through the reiteration of key concepts throughout the curriculum, fostering the move from the acquisition to application of knowledge.

In grades 4 and 5, students graduate from the two-teacher model and are taught exclusively by SETs, most of whom have advanced degrees in the field they teach. This builds on the independence fostered in the Primary Years and allows students more independence in—but also more responsibility for—their education.

As the name indicates, the Bridge Years transport students from the foundational years to an intermediate program focused on mastering basics necessary for a college-preparatory curriculum. In particular, instruction focuses on attaching abstract thinking to concrete thinking: students transition from reading comprehension to interpretation, from data collection to data analysis, and from mathematical calculation to mathematical reasoning. Courses unique to the Bridge Years include Latin, Classics, and Physical Geography.

During these years BASIS Curriculum students complete a rigorous schedule of pre-Advanced Placement courses in all core disciplines, including the three sciences (Physics, Chemistry and Biology), Economics, and a course in Logic.

It is in these Intermediate Years that our students come to understand knowledge as a tool. They begin to glimpse what mastery of the fundamental concepts skills and material in these various disciplines will afford them. They learn that amassing skills and facts is a step toward the more creative thinking required of the college-level coursework they will tackle in High School.

Beginning with the demonstration of mastery in AP survey courses in English, Math, Science and Social Science, BASIS Curriculum High School students further develop their ability to think independently and creatively in Post-AP courses and independent research projects.

The High School program culminates in a 3-month, off-site, independent project that is proposed and constructed by the students, under the guidance of both an internal faculty adviser and an external, professional specialist in the field of the student's choosing. The Senior Project is the most evolved phase of the BASIS Diploma and allows students to demonstrate independent scholarship, individual accountability, disciplinary mastery, and a facility with problem solving. BASIS Curriculum graduates thus leave the High School program prepared to be leaders in college and beyond.

© 2017 BASIS Curriculum Schools

Founded in 1998.
Cultivating excellence every year since.