BASIS Schools

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BASIS Schools, Inc. is an Arizona charter school operator. It operates a total of twelve charter schools, including ten in Arizona, along with one school each in the District of Columbia and in Texas. The first two BASIS charter schools have each been ranked in the U.S. News and World Report and Newsweek top ten U.S. high schools every year since becoming eligible. BASIS was also mentioned as one of America's top school systems in the acclaimed 2013 book by Time and The Atlantic reporter Amanda Ripley, called "The Smartest Kids In The World and How They Got That Way."

Charter schools[edit]

BASIS operates ten charter schools in Arizona, nine of them for students in grades 5–12, and one for students in grades K–4, listed below. It also operates BASIS Washington D.C. in the nation's capital, and BASIS San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas.

Northern Arizona[edit]

BASIS charter schools are managed by BASIS.ed, which will also manage two new independent schools in the fall of 2014 -- BASIS Independent Silicon Valley, in downtown San Jose, a 5-12 school, and BASIS Independent Brooklyn, in the Red Hook area of Brooklyn, a K-12 school. The schools will operate using the same BASIS.ed-managed curriculum that's utilized in the twelve BASIS charter schools which are also managed by BASIS.ed. However, tuition at the independent schools will be about half to two-thirds that of other highly-ranked private schools in New York City and the Bay Area.

BASIS is also continuing to expand its academic model via charter schools -- all of its charters are open enrollment public schools, and tuition free. BASIS is opening three new Arizona charter schools in the fall of 2014: BASIS Prescott (5-12), BASIS Phoenix Central (K-4), and BASIS Oro Valley Primary (K-4). [1]


  • BASIS Washington, D.C.[2]
  • BASIS San Antonio[3]

BASIS also has plans to open another school in San Antonio, BASIS San Antonio North, in fall 2014[4]


The first charter school, in Tucson, opened in 1998 under the guidance of co-founders Olga and Michael Block. They intended to make a school that could educate students as well as schools in top performing countries such as Finland, South Korea, China, Canada, and Japan.[5] The Scottsdale campus opened in 2003, and the Oro Valley location was founded in 2010. BASIS opened three schools at once in the fall of 2011 — its Chandler, Peoria,[6] and Flagstaff locations. Arizona governor Jan Brewer attended all three of the schools' opening ceremonies.[7] BASIS continued its expansion by opening another school in Tucson and one in Phoenix proper in fall 2012, along with their first non-Arizona school located in Washington, D.C. In 2013, Arizona campuses opened in Ahwatukee and Mesa, and the second non-Arizona campus was added in San Antonio, Texas.


BASIS schools are organized into two schools. A Lower School serves grades 5-7, and an Upper School serves grades 8-12.[6] Schools have about half the square footage per student than a traditional public school, reducing required facilities funding; the gymnasiums have no bleachers, and classroom space is reduced. The pedagogical model centers upon an accelerated curriculum and standardized tests, particularly the Advanced Placement exam. BASIS teachers are not required to be certified by the state, although they must be highly qualified under federal guidelines in No Child Left Behind. Many BASIS teachers are experts from within their chosen fields, with over 50% having Masters degrees and 10% having a PhD.[8]

Praise and media attention[edit]

BASIS Schools have been noted for performing favorably on standardized tests such as AP, IGCSE Exams, and the AIMS.[9] Students are required to take at least six AP classes throughout high school, beginning in 8th grade. 100% of BASIS graduates attend four-year universities upon receiving their BASIS diploma[10] and almost one-fourth of BASIS graduates are selected as National Merit Scholars.[11]

BASIS consistently ranks highly in national high school ranking systems that focus on student performance on standardized tests. Newsweek has ranked BASIS one of America's top ten schools every year since 2006. BASIS was also ranked 4th in the nation by the Washington Post in 2011 and 2nd in the nation for math and science by U.S. News & World Report.[12] In 2013, U.S. News & World Report rated both BASIS Tucson and BASIS Scottsdale (the only two BASIS schools open long enough to be eligible for rankings) as two of the top five schools in the nation.[13]

BASIS was also featured in the documentary film 2 Million Minutes: A 21st Century Solution. The film contrasts the school's accelerated curriculum with the typical public school model.[14] In the wake of the documentary's success, Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton visited BASIS' campus to deliver speeches on the importance of education in America.[15]

In her 2013 book published by Simon & Schuster The Smartest Kids In The World And How They Got That Way, Time magazine and The Atlantic journalist Amanda Ripley profiled the state of American education on a global scale, by profiling three U.S. high school students studying abroad for one year. Ripley explores the reasons for success in those countries—Finland, Poland and South Korea—through the eyes of the three Americans, and lauds BASIS schools, among several other American institutions, for matching those high overseas standards.

Criticisms and controversies[edit]

BASIS schools and their parent organization have been the subject of criticism and controversy in recent years. Critics contend that BASIS is failing to provide adequate financial transparency and accountability and is in fact actively creating financial opacity by funneling its tax dollars through a for-profit management company not subject to financial disclosure requirements. However, this practice is not illegal and BASIS is not the only charter school to exploit this loophole -- and as BASIS points out, its results are outstanding, and its curriculum is lauded by education advocates, parents, students, and politicians of both major parties. [16] Another investigative article in 2010 questioned the founders' high salary and pay raises compared to the teachers and other public school administrators.[17]

Other critics take issue with BASIS's accelerated curriculum and general educational philosophy. They argue that BASIS focuses too much on standardized testing. Critics have also claimed that BASIS has high attrition rates, and argue that BASIS's success depends upon "weeding out" underperforming students.[18]

Board of Directors[edit]

As of 2013, the organization had a seven person board:[19]

  • Craig Barrett, former CEO of Intel
  • Michael Block, BASIS co-founder
  • Clint Bolick, director of the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation
  • Don Budinger, founder of Rodel Inc.
  • John Morton, former president of the Arizona Council on Economic Education
  • Terry Sarvas, accountant and member of the Goldwater Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Steve Twist, law professor and founder of the Goldwater Institute for Public Policy Research


  1. ^ d68e0489437e.html
  2. ^ BASIS Washington, D.C.
  3. ^ BASIS San Antonio
  4. ^ BASIS San Antonio North Info Session
  5. ^ "BASIS History". Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  6. ^ a b Hansen, Kristena (2011-08-09). "Basis opens $6.7 million charter school in north Peoria". Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  7. ^ Reese, Michelle (2011-08-05). "Success of BASIS charters brings national attention - Your West Valley News: Topstory:". Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  8. ^ "Combining the best of European and American models propels BASIS schools". 2012-07-12. Retrieved 2013-05-03. 
  9. ^ "AIMS test score". Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  10. ^ ,"What Makes BASIS Schools Different". 2012-09-28. Retrieved 2013-05-03. 
  11. ^ "Charter Network's Serious Curriculum Engages Students, Teachers". 2012-09-07. Retrieved 2013-05-03. 
  12. ^ "National rankings". 2012-05-20. Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  13. ^ "Best High School Rankings". 2013-04-24. Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  14. ^ Cavanagh, Sean. "'Two Million Minutes,' in a Couple Paragraphs - Curriculum Matters - Education Week". Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  15. ^ "blogs - School Grounds - Sharpton and Gingrich Visiting BASIS". Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  16. ^ "Charter transparency". Retrieved 2012-12-17. 
  17. ^ "Basis School Execs Salaries Rose Fast". Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  18. ^ "conservatives on BASIS print the legend". Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  19. ^ "Board of Directors". Retrieved 2012-06-11. 

External links[edit]