In Silicon Valley, immigrants who are living the American dream because their family ensured that they get the benefit of quality education, spare no expense when it comes to the schooling of their own children. Many parentshave bought into the promise of private education.
Their experiences at companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter have taught them that their children must learn to make complex arguments and solve problems they’ve never seen before. They must learn to think critically. And towards that end these couples will spare no expense.
The question then arises which style of school would be suitable, Catholic, Montessori or non-denominational? Non-denominational schools like BASIS, Challenger and Stratford are popular with the Indian American community as parents are assured that time spent at school will be without religious bias. Religious studies will not be part of the curriculum. BASIS and Challenger have also proved themselves in communities other than the Bay Area where their methods have won them accolades.
Economists Michael and Olga Block started the first BASIS charter school in Tucson in 1998. They thought that low expectations for American students were leading schools to dumb down the curriculum. BASIS.ed manages twenty public charter schools, including seventeen in Arizona, two in Texas, and one in Washington, D.C. as well as five independent schools in Fremont and San Jose, CA; Brooklyn and Manhattan, NY; and McLean, VA; and one international school in Shenzhen, China. According to the U.S. News & World Reportrankings, which highlight top-performing public schools on a state and national level, BASIS.ed schools were named the #2, #3, and #6 best high schools in the nation. Challenger school similarly had strong beginnings in Utah and expanded to 25 campuses in five western states
Dr. Ashley Leyba Head of School at BASIS Independent Fremont says, “The school is designed to blend the rigor of European and Asian education models with American creativity.” The BASIS.ed curriculum incorporates hands-on STEM learning, with engineering and Mandarin courses beginning in kindergarten and lab-based sciences with students as young as ten.
Herself a doctor in history from the University of California, Berkeley Dr. Leyba is a strong believer in problem solving. When kindergartners use measuring tapes and stop watches and tweak the angles of their paper planes to make them fly better science has entered their zone of fun.
As Silicon Valley Challenger parents, Bruce and Tammy, summed up, “Few investments parents can make for their child’s future provide such a great return.” They themselves sought an environment of learning that encouraged self-reliance, independent thinking, and a healthy pride in one’s accomplishments for their child.
Bay Area is also experimenting with student-centered learning in an alternative environment. In 2013, former Google head of personalization Max Ventilla, started AltSchool. Mark Zuckerberg, a leading activist for school reform, contributed a large portion of a new $100 million round of venture funding to AltSchool. High level executives from Google and Uber were taken on as teachers. Providing support to teachers is Raj Bhatia, AltSchool’s vice president of product. Before he joined AltSchool he was a product manager at Zynga.
The approach holds that kids should pursue their own interests, at their own pace. To that AltSchool mixes in loads of technology to manage the chaos, and tops it all off with a staff of forward-thinking teachers who are set free to custom-teach each student. The result, they fervently say, is a superior educational experience.
This fall another school will join Siicon Valley’s family of independent schools. Opening fall 2016, BASIS Independent Fremont will serve students in kindergarten–grade 8 and act as a feeder for their flagship 5-12 program in the Valley, BASIS Independent Silicon Valley. BASIS has a diferent view on use of technology in the classroom. “Tech in the classroom almost always hurts class learning. It’s all about the teacher in the classroom,” says Mark Reford, the chief brand officer for Basis Educational Ventures. The difference is the teaching.The role good teaching plays in student results is critical.
“The most significant variable in the quality of a school is the teacher in the classroom.”
All photographs are of BASIS Independent School’s students and staff and provided by them.