Curriculum Overview

The BASIS Diploma

The BASIS Diploma prepares students to fully participate in the dynamic, exciting and unpredictable world of the 21st Century. Students who earn this diploma grow in our classrooms to love learning and the pursuit of deeper understanding. They experience the delight of mastering fields of complex knowledge and of developing the habits of disciplined, critical enquiry. Above all they have the best possible educational foundation to be independent and resourceful problem solvers and to face future challenges. It is their choice what career opportunities they pursue and intellectual decisions they make in the future. It is our job to fully prepare them to succeed in those choices.

The scope and sequence of the BASIS Diploma is determined by these practices.

We define opportunity for our students in GLOBAL terms. In the 21st Century we can no longer conceive of opportunity for the next generation as confined to a city, a state or even a nation. Hence, we commit to teaching our students to the highest global standards so that they can win admission to the best universities in the world and compete in a global professional marketplace.

Founded by two economists, from our earliest days our schools have been committed to the smart, network-wide use of student performance data. We hold ourselves ACCOUNTABLE to use the insights this data provides to sustain and improve learning outcomes for our students.

We teach our students to achieve MASTERY of the foundational academic disciplines and competencies, for it is that mastery which will empower their future lives and careers. In our classrooms they face extraordinary challenges, and they grow accustomed to the unwavering support of the faculty.

We have a course of study that is CONNECTED from the student's academic start in Preschool to its finish with Senior Projects. Our curriculum is carefully calibrated so that in every discipline and at every grade level, students are appropriately challenged and excited by their learning, and each year builds as a preparation for the challenges to come.

Our approach to the use of TECHNOLOGY in education is highly focused: we use technology to help us solve problems of scale, to help create the connective tissue that joins a network of schools into an integrated system with data-driven quality control and the sharing of best practices, and to ensure that curricular decisions and innovations are driven by our master teachers, not a top-down centralized bureaucracy.

In terms of the integration of technology in the classroom itself, we believe that technology is one of many tools available to teachers to engage and inspire students to take ownership of their learning experience. However, devices cannot replace the dynamic, CO-CREATIVE classroom interaction between teacher and student. We have developed our own tablet-based electronic learning platform to enhance, not replace the role of the teacher. Our belief is that technological competency with industry-standard hardware and software is a key skill necessary to thrive in our modern academic, professional and personal lives.

We create a learning culture in which diverse PERSPECTIVES are challenged and tested in an environment of informed thought and collegiality. Our students must be prepared to productively and decently navigate the uncertainty of the 21st Century landscape with a profound humility. By engaging with a variety of global perspectives, our students are empowered to make their own decisions about how they will navigate their world. As a learning community, we do not hide from the conflict and struggle that ensues. We revel in it as a vital component in the maturation of our students and the evolution of their most deeply held convictions.

The Teacher in the Classroom: Autonomy and Accountability

BASIS.ed does not write curriculum; we manage it. What does that mean? It means that we choose the subjects to be taught and set the standards for the scope and sequence of instruction in that subject. Teachers who are new to BASIS.ed quickly discover that ours is a system that balances the accountability of common high standards across the network with the pedagogic autonomy to develop innovative ways to meet these standards. BASIS.ed will never hand a teacher a fully written curriculum for a course, but we will provide structured guidance in the form of common standards, common exams based on those standards, and a network of “Subject Advisors” – mentor teachers sprinkled throughout our schools - to assist and support.

The creative tension between the autonomy that our expert teachers value so highly, and the common aspects of shared accountability that enables BASIS.ed to maintain academic quality control across the network, is the nexus at the heart of our classroom learning culture. We are able to preserve this level of autonomy for our teachers by agreeing upon these common principles.

We believe:

  1. Children can achieve more than we have commonly been told. With hard work, dedication and the support of teachers and parents, 3rd graders can think critically, 6th graders can learn Physics, and High School students can read Critical Theory and Philosophy.
  2. Instructional time is precious. Every minute of every class should be filled.
  3. Mastering the basics is the precondition for going beyond them. Students learn to listen for the music of Shakespeare's iambic pentameter and to decipher the crucial details in an historical primary source, but they must also be able to parse the grammar of a sentence and craft concise and persuasive prose.
  4. Homework, as long as it is an extension of what is being learned in the classroom, is valuable. Practice helps students achieve mastery.
  5. High-stakes, summative tests that assess content mastery and learning skills (BASIS.ed Comprehensive Exams and the College Board Advanced Placement Exams for example) are foundational for learning.
  6. The evaluation of teacher performance must be based both on classroom instruction and on student learning results on high-stakes assessments.

The Student In The Classroom: The Academic Journey From Preschool To Senior Projects

The BASIS.ed K–4 program has been developed to help prepare students for the high-achieving curriculum in the BASIS.ed Lower School (grades 5–7) and Upper School (grades 8–12). The K–4 program therefore focuses not only on academics, but also on critical thinking, organizational skills, time management, study skills, and behavioral expectations — each of which are vital to success in various future pursuits.

To ensure superior instruction in each of these areas, we have two teachers in each classroom in grades 1–4: a subject expert and a learning expert.

Subject Expert Teachers — many of whom have master's degrees or Ph.Ds — are skilled and experienced teachers with special ability in their subject area. They only teach one subject to a significant number of students, while working with a new learning expert teacher and new class of students in each class period.

Learning Expert Teachers are skilled and experienced in teaching methods for the primary grades, and they remain with their group of students all day, rotating with them from subject to subject. Learning Expert Teachers are responsible for one classroom of students, all day, every day, while leading them to work with a new Subject Expert Teacher in each class period.

During any one class period, these two types of teaching professionals work together to find the best ways to deliver lessons, ensure student engagement, and create an environment where students will understand and retain what they learn in class. It is important to note that BASIS teachers have a significant amount of professional freedom in finding the optimal way to achieve these goals, which forms a compelling part of what makes BASIS schools outstanding, and truly unique.

An observer in a BASIS.ed-managed classroom on any given day will see both Subject Expert Teachers and Learning Expert Teachers checking for understanding by using student whiteboards, providing one-on-one attention to students, using the Socratic method, applying team-oriented learning techniques, and reviewing the prior night's homework (and prior day's material) not just for accuracy, but for conceptual understanding. This unique level of student-teacher engagement allows teachers to quickly identify students who are struggling, assist them in getting the extra support they may need, and prevent them from falling behind. It also builds a truly fulfilling relationship — one of mutual respect, trust, and understanding.

The BASIS.ed curriculum for grades 5–7 is designed to help students develop academic and organizational skills that will prepare them for the demanding BASIS.ed Upper School curriculum. Whereas the Lower School Program is primarily taught in integrated 85-minute blocks, Middle School students move classes and subjects every 50 minutes, which presents an exciting challenge for students. We recognize that the abilities to organize time, and manage and control oneself are not innate: we must all learn these skills. Our Middle School teachers focus on this every day and help students fine-tune these skills.

By introducing high-level content standards in middle school, we ensure students are exposed to these concepts early and often and have mastered the material by the time they enroll in Honors and AP-level courses.

Our curriculum in these grades is designed to provide one of the most advanced middle school programs available in the world, fully integrating the sciences, arts, math, language, and reading. By the end of middle school, students have delved deeply into the critical importance of organization and time management, so that they can conquer the high school curriculum.

The BASIS.ed program for grades 8–12 is widely recognized as one of the most academically-advanced high school programs in the world. Our graduates are routinely accepted to top universities around the world, from Harvard and Stanford to the University of Oxford. Our graduates are distinguished individuals who will have gone through a world-class college preparatory course of study including a full year of economics in 8th grade, a plethora of AP course options electives and in-depth college counseling experience which prepares them to excel in college and beyond. The School Program challenges students to reach the highest international benchmarks and holds students accountable for mastering subject material. The acceleration of the curriculum allows BASIS.ed students the option of graduating after 11th grade; however, most students choose to continue their studies in 12th grade so they can participate in two profoundly influential aspects of the BASIS.ed program: Senior Projects & Capstone Courses.