BASIS Independent Schools are characterized by creativity and spirit, and they are driven by best practices from the top educational systems in the world. As our private schools branch out across the U.S. and the world, one secret to maintaining excellence network-wide rests in our central Curriculum Team. These professionals work tirelessly to assess data across schools with a shared goal - to improve student outcomes deliberately, quickly, and meaningfully.
Currently BASIS Independent Schools educate students in Brooklyn, NY; Fremont, CA; McLean, VA; Manhattan, NY; and Silicon Valley, CA. A new campus will open this fall in Bellevue, WA. Our world-acclaimed curriculum taught by subject expert teachers draws families to the schools; however, a key strength that is not as well understood rests in our private school network’s ability and commitment to using data to improve continually, rather than rest on our reputation for excellence, particularly given our rapidly evolving world.
“It is critical that we have a continuity of excellence at BASIS Independent Schools,” said Toby Walker, Vice President of BASIS Independent Schools. “That we hold ourselves to high standards, and that we learn from each other as school leaders and teachers across our network. The data around academic outcomes inform this approach; the collaboration among our teachers and administrators is based in large part on taking advantage of the insights our data provides. We take seriously our responsibility to act on these insights to improve our students’ experience.”
Commitment to Continual Improvement
“The sense of continual improvement is something that everybody talks about, but the actual mechanics of how you do that is multi-faceted and can be difficult without the right structure,” said Mr. Walker. ”We have developed a system in which we continually evaluate how well we are doing and how we can do better. For teachers that is really meaningful.”
The deliberate evolution of the BASIS Curriculum is critical to how we prepare students with the content knowledge, critical thinking, and creative problem-solving skills needed to be successful in an increasingly complex world. At the heart of this evolution is a culture and commitment to use data measuring student outcomes and inform meaningful ways to improve.
BASIS Independent Schools have always used academic outcomes and academic data to inform two things: 1) the curriculum, including the scope and sequence of subjects taught and the concepts and skills within each course; and 2) immediate feedback to students and teachers on progress through the class and through the courses. Data also helps drive refinement of our assessments and evaluations, so that they continue to be accurate measures of student mastery in each subject.
“All of this is very intentional,” stated Mr. Walker. “We know our students are going to take AP examinations, and they will go on to take assessments designed to measure subject mastery at a higher level in university. Now, what we do is look at the requirements for those assessments and consider, how do we best prepare teachers so they can ensure that their students can walk into those exams with confidence? It is important to make a distinction between teaching to the test and preparing students to be confident in the sense that they can show what they know. We prepare students to demonstrate what they have achieved and what they have engaged with, and their success reflects rich classroom experiences over the year.”
Teachers Inform Best Practices and Curriculum
Linda Louis lives and breathes the BASIS Curriculum in her role as Senior Director of Curriculum across BASIS Independent Schools. Ms. Louis strives to “create an understanding that we have a culture of data leading to accountability and opportunity.” BASIS Independent Schools give teachers autonomy in the classroom to teach what they know best in the way they know best because they also have accountability.
Ms. Louis is responsible for looking at trends and analyzing results with school leaders that shape best practices to recommend across schools. She views network-wide data as an immediate opportunity for reflection as well as action.
“Using our network to full advantage means not just thoroughly analyzing assessment data but also drawing from the people who are most inspired by what they do,” said Ms. Louis. “We want to try new things and offer those creative approaches to everybody in the network. This is not meant to take away autonomy from our local teachers; rather, it gives them more–it gives them a community of peers.” This community helps one another understand data and determine how best to use it to improve their practice and update the curriculum.
“I really love that teachers are the ones who are responsible for refining the BASIS Curriculum on an annual basis,” said Ms. Louis. “We make adjustments based on a wide variety of academic outcomes. Teachers’ consensus about students’ strengths and challenges, from PreK through graduation, is as important as students’ performance on exams. We are proactive; we make improvements right away while ensuring the BASIS Curriculum remains aligned from Early Learning through Capstones. In this way, our curriculum reflects the high expectations of the top education systems in the world as well as the subject and pedagogical expertise of our own teachers. No one else does this, and I really think our academic model is extraordinary.”
Context is Everything
One important point stressed by both Mr. Walker and Ms. Louis is the larger story around data. We know well that individuals are more than a number, and the school leaders reflect deeply on the balance and context with results. Data is only meaningful when it is understood within the context of a campus, a classroom, and an individual child’s experience.
“There is a story and a complexity around all data points, and the school leaders are best placed to understand the nuances of what they represent," shared Toby Walker. “We love to celebrate our successes. We love talking about how well our students do on AP examinations and celebrating their achievements as they head off to college and university. We know, however, that their achievements—and the ways in which we evaluate our own performance as a network—are many, and certainly extend beyond their scores.”
BASIS Independent Schools prove time and again that with the right support and encouragement, all students can achieve academic excellence. We set the bar high and help students build the confidence to clear it. Our curriculum, paired with expert teachers, helps students develop 21st-century skills and lifelong intellectual passions, and the use of data helps ensure we are accountable to the families we serve.
“If you take the student satisfaction reports from our OECD Test for Schools, our 15-16-year-olds really do report feeling happy, cared for, and part of a community at school, far more than their peers,” shared Ms. Louis. ”Our culture of data informs and makes possible the joy in the classroom we strive for across all of our schools.”