November 9th, 2009

Media Mondays: BASIS Charter Schools

Last week’s Economist features a short article entitled “Desert Excellence,” which takes a brief look at the BASIS charter schools in Tucson and Scottsdale, Arizona. The schools have gotten some attention recently, thanks to Bob Compton’s documentary, 2 Million Minutes. In the film, the schools are portrayed as ideal institutions for pushing American education to the level of its international competitors.

Indeed, according to the Economist, school founders Michael Block and his wife, Olga, started the school because Olga, who is Czech, was “horrified by the mediocrity and low expectations at American public schools.” One of the school’s teachers, interviewed in the clip below, says that the Blocks “took a blend of the Asian and European style, and it has an American flair.”

Reverend Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich have both publicly supported the school, and in 2008, Newsweek ranked it the #1 public high school in America (this year they are #5). Michael Block accounts for the schools’ success by citing its rigorous academic demands–the BASIS high schools use only Advanced Placement curricula–and the hard work of its students. Are high academic standards and “four hours of homework a night” the keys to education reform? Watch Block’s interview with Tucson local news, below, and tell us what you think.

“The Future of Learning” [Ed Beat, 10/26/09]
“Desert Excellence” [, 10/29/09]

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