As a school psychologist who has had the privilege of working with many of the Arizona BASIS schools over the years, I read your recent investigative article with great interest.
While I in no way discount some of the points made, or experiences noted in the article, I do wish to highlight my experiences working with caring staff who were provided with the resources and training necessary to serve special education students at BASIS.
Several issues exist within school systems across the country regarding special education. As the federal government does not fund services under the Americans with Disabilities Act for students with only a 504 plan, using the more restrictive and isolative special education services as a “dumping ground” for children with academic and/or behavioral difficulties has become the preferred practice.
This, together with the increased staff paperwork demands for students placed in special education, leaves less time for actual services.
During my time with BASIS, we worked tirelessly to undo the damage done to many children who were inaccurately diagnosed and often isolated from their peers.
For children at risk, an “all hands on deck” approach often yielded good results, with or without an Individualized Education Program in place.
For students who were accurately placed in special education services, we worked as true multidisciplinary teams, supporting children in every way possible.
All teachers and administrators participated in support meetings, something that rarely occurred in public schools.
BASIS teachers provided before-and-after school support for all children.
Students needing core support (reading/math/writing) received services outside of core instruction periods, avoiding further gaps in functioning. Instead of lowering the bar, BASIS held the bar high and provided students with the tools and services needed to achieve with their peers.
BASIS is surely not for everyone, and, when a parent made the decision to leave BASIS, we worked to support that transition and never gave up on any child. When there were disagreements, they were never at the expense of a child.
While I have not been involved across state lines, or at every school site, I can assure you that every staff member I met and worked with at BASIS renewed my hopes for what all children can achieve when they are provided with an enriching curriculum, and when teachers are experts in their area and understand and apply pedagogy, especially for those children having difficulty.
Finally, I believe it is an oversight to attack BASIS, where children are not required to pass prerequisite exams to enroll, similar to those found in the Tucson Unified School District.
Having had direct experience working at both Rincon High School and University High School, I prefer that all children be provided with a rigorous curriculum and with the services and supports needed to succeed, rather than substandard and sub-par systems that deny students of what I believe is a free and appropriate education.