Spent the last few days in Arizona and got to visit the Basis School in Scottsdale to see how a charter school can be the top ranked High School in the Nation. Taking a tour and meeting the directors, you can see why. They push and they push hard. The middle school students were doing advanced algebra (as a former engineer I really got into solving two variables and didn’t want to leave). They integrate the curriculum across subjects moving aspects from one subject to another to maximize time and effectiveness in class. The charter school at it's best.
They thoroughly address one of my pet peeves – they teach middle school students how to study. They let them know that studying for a test is not just reading a worksheet once. The one former TFA teacher worked with his Geography students to make sure they understood where they were weak and how to strengthen skills to ensure they were ready for the test. THIS IS HUGE! I spent way too much time working with my middle schoolers because no one taught them to study – it was left to parents. I always thought that it was one great way to ensure we continued the achievement gap since public schools don't teach kids how to study. In fact if kids come to Basis later in middle school they have to do some study skill boot camp in the afternoons so that these kids can keep up.
They have pass rate percentages on AP exams in the 90’s. These kids are motivated and because the curriculum is so demanding from middle school on, they are ready for college level courses at a very early age.
Could this be replicated through all schools? Probably not. But if we had thousands of these schools, we would really move forward as a competitive nation. It was amazing and I look forward to having some great ABCTE teachers there in the future.