Learning Transcends Bricks and Mortar A New Schoolhouse for BASIS Scottsdale

On a warm summer morning thirteen years ago this month, BASIS Scottsdale Founding Head of School Diane Moser slapped off her alarm clock at 4:00 a.m., dressed quickly, and drove on quiet roads towards Scottsdale Community College’s Airpark Campus, where her students, teachers, and staff would convene for the very first time. It was the first day of school for the second-ever BASIS.ed campus.

“On that first day, I met Michael and Olga while it was still dark, to set up a large tent outside in the parking lot for our welcome assembly,” says Ms. Moser, referring to Dr. Michael and Olga Block, BASIS.ed‘s founders, who have overseen every one of 27 school openings over 18 years.

“Michael, Olga, and I managed to set up the canopy tent, and we unfolded chair after chair,” says Moser, who is now Chief of Staff of the Executive Department at BASIS.ed’s headquarters. “By assembly time it was already hot, but we had enough energy to give a rousing welcome to this brand new school that was sharing space in such a very odd location. And then – well, then we had the kids back in class by 9:30 a.m., already focused on learning. We were doing what BASIS Scottsdale has done, quite literally, from day one!”

Thirteen years later, BASIS Scottsdale is without question one of the finest schools in the United States, and the world – as it prepares to move into its fourth schoolhouse since its founding in 2003. The new building on 128th Street is a dramatic and exciting step forward for teachers, students, and staff, but it’s fair to say that the school’s unequaled success in its 13 years of operation shows that the quality of the learning culture, the co-creative relationship between teachers and students, transcends bricks and mortar.

Currently ranked as one of the nation’s “Top-Performing Schools with Elite Students” by the Washington Post, and the #2 “Best High School” in the United States – for the third straight year – by U.S. News & World Report, BASIS Scottsdale was successful from the start, having been ranked in the top ten every year since becoming eligible, just like its sister BASIS.ed “Legacy School” in Tucson – and just like its future sibling schools would be, across the global network.

“The excellence of the program mirrored BASIS Tucson‘s,” Moser says. “We weren’t surprised. The Blocks weren’t surprised. Our incredible teachers – at both campuses – weren’t surprised. But some of the talk around town – well, maybe we intrigued some people. Our unmatched academic program could be replicated. We were doing it, and in a place [Scottsdale] that already had excellent schools!”

Moser remained BASIS Scottsdale’s Head of School from that first day through 2009-2010, and her seven years is tied for the longest HOS tenure at one school in BASIS.ed’s history. She saw it all – from the Blocks helping sweep up and fix copiers, “to having teachers and staff pack up everything and lock it away each evening and students taking all of their belongings home each night” at the SCC Airpark location, because it was shared.

Moser also shepherded several construction projects in the building on Via Linda – which had outdoor lockers, barely protected from the heat with a slim canopy – as well as the move to the 136th Street building in August, 2007, when the quickly-blooming student body outgrew its home. “We moved over one weekend, with our whole school community packing up cars and trucks,” she says.

“The foundation – from day one – was our teachers; the success is because of them. I just gave them an environment that they could work in and teach. They just had to teach. I didn’t have them do anything else. Just teach,” Moser adamantly says.

“These teachers are the true heroes in that school, and in every school in this network. I don’t want that to be forgotten. Olga Block told me over and over again that it takes someone very special to be a teacher. She was and is correct. Teaching is what it’s all about. Nothing else in BASIS.ed means much without our teachers.”

Here’s a closer look at the unparalleled recent success of BASIS Scottsdale, as it moves into its fourth schoolhouse. The incredible data is just the latest in a year-over-year parade of excellent outcomes for students at BASIS Scottsdale:

  • On the latest OECD Test for Schools (based on PISA), BASIS Scottsdale students were in the top 1% in the United States, and top 2% in the world.
  • College Acceptances:
    • 65% of BASIS Scottsdale’s 2016 Graduates were accepted to a Top 50 U.S. News national liberal arts college or university; 30% were accepted to a Top 20 school.
    • 59% of BASIS Scottsdale’s 2016 Graduates were accepted to a Top 50 school according to the Times Higher Education (THE) Academic Ranking of World Universities; 42% were accepted to a Top 20 school.
  • Advanced Placement (AP) testing:
    • 92% passed their exam with a score of 3 or above, on a scale of 1 to 5. Globally, 58% of students pass AP exams; in the U.S., 57.5% of students pass.
    • The average score of BASIS Scottsdale student’s AP exams was 4.04. Around the world, the average score is 2.87. In the U.S., it’s 2.85.
    • 63% – 246 – of BASIS Scottsdale’s 388 AP exam takers earned distinction as AP Scholars.

“I wish Kristen [Jordison, BASIS Scottsdale’s newest Head of School, taking over for Elizabeth McConaghy, now the HOS at BASIS Scottsdale Primary] and her teachers and staff all of the best in their new school building! I know it’s beautiful – and I know how hard many BASIS.ed people worked to make the new building a reality, and move BASIS Scottsdale Primary into our old home. But regardless of the structure – no matter the bricks and mortar – BASIS Scottsdale will do what it’s done from day one! I just know it!”

Diane Moser and Olga Block Tent Events and Students Opening Day, Scottsdale 2003
Phil Handler

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