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).
Julia Toews is the Vice President of Academics and has been with BASIS.ed since inception in 2004. Her team is the powerhouse behind the BASIS Curriculum and ensuring its quality, effectiveness and delivery across our network of schools.
What is your role within BASIS Curriculum Schools and how does it impact families in Manhattan?
Ms. Toews: “I am the Vice President of Academics for BASIS.ed. I manage the creation of standards and common assessments across our network of schools, but I do not dictate what our teachers teach in their classrooms. I work with our expert teachers, Subject Advisors (SADs), who specialize in one particular subject, to help set mandatory topics that we agree should be covered in each grade. The SAD then provides syllabus templates to the teachers, and the teachers have the autonomy to modify it based on their own teaching style. Basically, we provide guidance on how to teach the material but the teacher is encouraged to make it their own.
As you’ve likely experienced at one of our teacher demo days, we take teacher hiring very seriously, and want to attract teachers who are used to experimenting and innovating in the classroom, and know where to find resources to help them. You will see our dedication to teacher hiring pay off at BASIS Independent Manhattan because our teachers are more engaged and more passionate about pedagogy than you are likely to see at other schools. They are not given a scripted curriculum, but they are given a wealth of resources and a strong community of teachers to collaborate with throughout the year. I am thrilled that BASIS Independent Manhattan will have a dedicated SAD on staff!”
How do we successfully implement curriculum across all of our schools?
Ms. Toews: “We regularly assess progress to ensure everyone is staying on the same path. For example, in grades 3, 4, and 5, we have our own baseline and benchmarking tests that we give based on their topics. These tests do not impact student’s grades, but are simply a way for the teacher to assess topic comprehension. We also have external checks and balances, such as the International Student Assessment (ISA), which measures how our students are performing compared to their international counterparts.
We also provide comprehensive annual teacher training across all schools in our network. As part of that training, new teachers meet with their designated SAD for an immersive dive into course materials, and review various techniques (among many other topics).”
What makes the BASIS Curriculum unlike that taught at any other school, private or public?
Ms. Toews: “We balance shared standards with a real emphasis on the teacher as the expert in the classroom. We promote autonomy, but also unity. The idea is that we all agree on the topics that students should learn, and the scope that we want them to master, but we absolutely insist that teachers teach those topics in a manner that is best suited for the students in their classroom.”
To learn more, join Ms. Toews and BASIS Independent Manhattan faculty and staff at our June 14 event "A Closer Look at the Revolutionary BASIS Curriculum". More details and registration here.
Julie Toews is the Vice President of Academics for BASIS.ed, which oversees the management of Assessment, Teacher Support and Professional Development, and Curriculum Research and Development. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Reed College, and a Master’s degree in English from Johns Hopkins University. After years of teaching at the undergraduate level at Johns Hopkins, she left to pursue a career in secondary level teaching.
Ms. Toews joined BASIS.ed in 2004 to assist with designing the senior year curriculum for the first group of seniors. She has played several pivotal roles during her tenure, including English teacher, College Counselor, Upper School Director, HOS at BASIS Tucson North and BASIS Tucson. She has also been a proud BASIS Tucson North parent since 2013.
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