As strong as the educational system in the Bay Area may seem, California as a whole is not ranked in the top half of states for quality of education, according to the U.S. News & World Report. Public schools often lack the rigor to place high nationally. On the other hand, private schools are too expensive for most to attend.
Charter schools, which are both academically strong and free, provide more options for parents and have the potential to improve the education system. Companies like BASIS and Aspire already have institutions in San Jose and East Palo Alto, respectively, and there are more charter schools popping up each year.
There are several examples of state education systems seeing dramatic improvements. According to U.S. News & World Report, Florida schools were ranked the five worst in America in 1996. Now, Florida is in the top 10, competing with states known for having successful systems like Massachusetts or New York. Arizona has also seen comparable success.
Since passing a sweeping legislation allowing charter schools, the number of students attending charter schools in Arizona is on a constant upward trend. Stats from the The Arizona Republic show a 9% increase per year in student enrollment in charter schools during each of the past two decades. In addition, Arizona is ranked third for parental school choices, closely behind Florida, according to the Parent Power Index website.
“Our network’s public charter schools happen to be among the nation’s best public schools overall – not just the best public charter schools, but the best public schools,” BASIS Education Ventures’ VP of BASIS Educational ventures Phil Handler said in an email.
The BASIS educational group has been one of the institutions responsible for Arizona’s success with charter schools. Founded two years after the legislation was passed, starting with a school in the southern city of Tucson, BASIS now has 22 schools in Arizona with 32 across the country. These schools are not only meeting the state-mandated expectations, they are providing students with unparalleled academic opportunities.
“We have the top five high schools in the nation per the most recent U.S. News & World Report rankings, and six of the top eight,”
Phil Handler, BASIS Education Ventures’ VP of BASIS Educational ventures
This feat is partially due to the system the Arizona Board of Education created. Since the system has shown success, it only makes sense for other states to follow suit.
Although critics argue regulations in favor of charter schools keep money at the expense of public schools, Handler says charter schools are indeed public schools.
“First, charter schools ARE public schools, of course,” Handler says. “In Arizona, where the BASIS Curriculum Schools network was founded, and where the majority of our BASIS Charter Schools are located, public schools get more per-pupil dollars than public charter schools.”
BASIS Silicon Valley student Jaydev Bhateja said charter schools foster more success than his previous experiences at public high schools.
“I feel like BASIS offers a level of accessibility to teachers that is hard to find in public schools — teachers are required to have two office hours each week, and I found these very useful for preparing for tests and quizzes. Teacher quality has been overall great, and I would say much better than what you would find at a public school.”
Bhateja, BASIS Silicon Valley student
According to Bhateja, BASIS provides him with advantages that can’t be replicated in a public school.
“BASIS allows you to take AP classes very early on,” Bhateja said. “I took two APs in 8th grade, five in 9th, five in 10th and five in 11th. Whether I get college credit for these courses or not, I got to learn more content earlier, and I was truly challenged at school. It is for this reason that I chose BASIS, instead of my parents choosing my school.”
East Palo Alto charter school organization, owned by Aspire Schools, hopes to achieve the same success in the East Palo Alto community according to their website. Since opening, the company’s high demand has caused it to create a separate campus for grades K-5, and has instituted a lottery system for both of its schools.