As we count down the months leading up to the start of our inaugural year at BASIS Independent Manhattan, it is important to remember that we are supported by the power of the network, a collective experience of managing some of the best schools in the world. Over the next few weeks, we will bring you updates on and brief interviews with our founding faculty, staff, and key BASIS Curriculum Schools personnel whose impacts do truly extend to the very classroom your child will step foot into on the first day of school (and the many days to follow).
BASIS Curriculum Schools veteran Dr. Mark Reford is one of the people responsible for ensuring quality and consistency of effective teaching methods in classrooms and program offerings across our schools. Having helped open the very first BASIS Independent Schools, Dr. Reford's perspective on maintaining the integrity of our program is particularly poignant as we are poised to open for our inaugural year.
What does it mean to have quality control in a school?
Dr. Reford: To us, the very name of our program signifies quality of the learning experience. We make promises to parents and kids when they come to our school. We say you will have passionate expert teachers, we will inspire kids to learn, inspire curiosity, we talk about the security of laying strong foundations in content and skills, but we talk also about going beyond the safe, secure notion of preparation and to what our teachers strive to do: drive students to create and innovate. We make promises about our learning community, and, straightforwardly, I check to see if we are living up to our promises.
How do you do that?
Dr. Reford: We are committed to managing by data. As a network of 28 schools all over America and the word, we collect data and ensure quality through BeLa, a curricular platform for sharing good ideas. It is not just a collaborative tool, it is through that platform that we can also see who actually has the good ideas that can be implemented across our schools. BeLa answers questions like: who is doing something very successful in the classroom that we can replicate elsewhere? What experiments and innovations are working?
Also, we regularly survey both students and parents. We take them very seriously. For managers in our schools, referring to data is second nature when trying to understand concerns and problems. There are regular visitors and observers coming into the schools looking to get a feel for the culture of the school and classroom. They ask themselves questions like: are these students intellectually challenged? Do they seem hungry to learn?
We have support for all Heads of School (beyond the incredible support and advice they offer to one another) and they have many senior people to turn to for advice.
In your experience, why is this different .. and why does it matter?
Dr. Reford: My background, even though I now operate in a central role – is many years spent in the classroom – either college or high school. I have a very simple view of schools: what really matters is the quality of the learning experience in the classroom. It is the alpha and omega of what makes for a good school. Traditional public schools, traditional private schools – traditional ways of assessing learning quality are not enough anymore. What can typically happen is someone comes in and observes in a public school and there are endless metrics and ticking of boxes. One of the reasons traditional education needs to be revisited is the way in which learning quality is measured. We focus on what actually matters here at BASIS Curriculum Schools.
Hear more of Dr. Reford's unique perspective at an upcoming event on May 25. More details and registration here.
Dr. Reford is a leading international educator with global experience in all aspects of primary and secondary education. Dr. Reford has published and been interviewed in many local, national and international media outlets including The Wall St. Journal, The Washington Post, NPR, Crains Business Journal New York, The Daily News, US News and NAIS Magazine. Born and raised in N. Ireland, he read English at Oxford University where he also earned his doctorate on the poetry of W. B. Yeats. Dr. Reford has taught at Oxford University, The Stanford University Program in Oxford, Moscow State University and worked in some of the most prestigious private schools in America including many years as a teacher and senior manager at Sidwell Friends School in Washington DC. As the first employee and founding CEO of BASIS Independent Schools, he led the teams that opened the two flagship schools in Silicon Valley and Brooklyn. His current responsibilities involve a focus on school development and quality control for BASIS Curriculum Schools.
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