When parents are considering enrolling their children at BASIS Independent Schools, a lot of the questions we often receive at our Informational Events centers around ensuring a smooth transition into our program. We gathered a few of the most popular questions and asked the Head of School for our sister school BASIS Independent McLean to provide his insight into how our program is set up to ensure success before BASIS Independent, and after.
QUESTION: Are my children prepared for a rigorous academic program?"The greatest indicator of success is the child’s desire to be at BASIS Independent. If a student is hungry for more, wanting to be challenged, and craves more authentic learning experiences, then navigating some of the potential difficulties is always much easier.
Our program is designed to ramp up as the school matures. From a new school perspective, it is easier to enter BASIS Independent in a campus’s early years as opposed to when it is more established, as the content of the curriculum takes into account a wider distribution or prior exposure and preparation. Obviously, this conversation is different with a new 9th grader than a new 1st grader.
Generally, willingness to ask questions is so important when students start. Either in the classroom, student hours, or academic support – learning how to ask targeted questions is very much part of our focus. A child’s willingness to stretch this part of their comfort zone is a big indicator of success down the road."
QUESTION: What about adjusting for students coming in after BASIS Independent McLean's first year? For example, my son hasn’t had chemistry yet, but his classmates will have, Maria has had no Mandarin yet will be in class with kids who have had a few years?
"In this instance, I would offer summer packets from prior grade levels to allow a student to become more familiar with the foundations. Our courses are designed to spiral so that important information is revisited in subsequent years, albeit with less time devoted (think review rather than instruction). The more familiarity with vocabulary, relationships, systems, etc., the better – so the packets can be a big help.
It is also important to talk about time. There is no magic bullet to content mastery, and if a child hasn’t learned a vital topic, they may have to put in the time on their own. Our teachers will be ready to support this effort before school and after school. Our Deans and administrators are willing to make changes to a student’s schedule in the first year to get them more exposure to the academics they may require (for example, using one period of elective per week for additional writing help). But it is fair to say that the older a student is, the more extra time that may be required for them to catch up.
Lastly, it is important to remember that most of our subjects are not hierarchical. All 8th graders will be exposed to new material in molecular and cellular biology. True, some of them took anatomy and physiology content in 6th grade that will help them make connections to some of these microscopic happenings, but that doesn’t mean that learning the names of all the bones in 6th grade is a prerequisite to understanding the electron transport chain in 8th grade. The layering of content over time makes the move into college level AP work a smoother transition, but countless BASIS.ed students over the years have proved that it’s possible without years of layering. Subjects like math, history, and even potentially English have more building upon prior information, but high level thinking is more about making connections between what you know and less about knowing everything.
This matters much more in the middle and high school years than it does in elementary. There is much more spiraling and much more 'new to everyone' content in the younger grades."
QUESTION: How do you support kids as they transition into the program?
"Relationships are key. I repeat: relationships are key. Many of our students are eager to become ambassadors and immediate support networks for new students. In fact, I think it’s healthy for them to look at their own activities through the eyes of a new student to gain broader perspective and work on empathy, community, etc. We often will also immediately enroll a new student at an established school in Academic Support to set up the Dean as their go-to adult. Of course, relationships with teachers are a huge support component to any student at BASIS Independent, and they are given information about their new students to develop plans for transition into their specific coursework.
Often those plans are collaborative, and I think this is a huge piece. Having a student take part in their own transition plan creates more meaningful and targeted programs – about which they have a voice.
We build an environment where every adult is expected to be part of support. Heads of School, Directors, Deans, teachers, and students are more frequently employed in this regard, but I’ve also had students connect with an IT coordinator, registrar, or a coach. We want to establish go-to adults for every child to make sure the lines of communication are open and the student feels part of that conversation."
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