The BASIS Independent Academies Senior Program
Preparation and Purpose
In grade 12, students experience the Senior Program. This is the culmination of the BASIS Curriculum, and offers seniors rich, student-led opportunities to apply what they have learned throughout their time at BASIS Independent Academies. In the rigorous middle and high school years, students must master advanced coursework in all subject areas. The breadth of the curriculum: the interdisciplinary nature of courses like Logic & Rhetoric, Classics, and Economics, and the spiraling nature of topics and skills in the core courses, provide a comprehensive academic foundation. This foundation, augmented by years of increasing independence and autonomy, thoroughly prepares seniors to embark on their research experiences, as well as their college and career plans, with preparation and purpose.
The College Counseling program at BASIS Independent Academies is committed to the philosophy that we are engaged in counseling; we are not a placement office. We work toward ensuring that our students will have the finest possible options from which to choose, but our most important goal is to help them find an appropriate match for themselves, not simply to point them to any specific set of institutions. We regard this as a fundamental distinction. Seniors take the daily College Counseling course for their first two trimesters. This is designed to help students discover their intellectual passions and to introduce them to opportunities, majors, and schools that align with their goals. Our College Counselors help students determine which postsecondary programs are the best fit for their interests, facilitate visits to campuses, host university admissions representatives, help students use Naviance (an application and data tracking system), and provide feedback on applications and personal essays. The College Counseling course is a critical part of the path our graduates take from being leaders in their school to leaders in college and beyond. While College Counseling is primarily one of the major components of the Senior Program, helping students find the right fit is possible in part because of how BASIS Independent Academies build the dual expectations of college admissions and of providing support to students into our academic culture. Younger students come to anticipate the process of college counseling, and look to seniors as role models.
The goal of the Senior Courses are to facilitate the moment in which a student starts working for him/ herself in earnest, and not for an instructor or for a grade. Given that goal, Senior Courses should ideally propel students into Senior Research Projects by equipping them with the skills to do independent research, the drive to use those skills, and the ability to identify and explore a specific interest. Courses in grade 12 are also designed to foster organizational and public speaking skills, so that students can present their work thoroughly and with confidence. Students apply the skills they’ve been developing in grades 9-11 in the Comparative Government & Political Theory Seminar. Students may choose from campus-specific options for math, science, and foreign language. They must also take AP Research, which prepares them to earn the College Board’s Capstone Diploma. All courses require college-level preparation, scholarship, and dedication from both students and teachers. Senior Courses are taught by instructors who have expertise in, and passion for, the specific topic around which a Senior Course is designed (Marine Biology, Category Theory, Postcolonial Literature, etc.). Senior Courses replace the breadth of a seminar or AP course with depth, so that students fully immerse themselves in one topic or problem and its implications. Above all, the instructor models for students what it’s like to work in her/his field, so that students fully understand the importance and implications of the topics of study. The teacher commands a wide variety of sources and resources in Senior Courses; students have authentic academic experiences that will help them determine whether a particular field will be right for them in the future. Although the requirement of depth may result in syllabi that are focused on a specific theme that reflects the research interests of the instructor, Senior Courses should also include projects and assignments that foster intellectual independence in the student. In a Senior Course on organic chemistry, for example, students might be required to design and execute an experiment within the field, but of their choosing. Teachers help students to extend their interests in several related directions, and guide them towards relevant interdisciplinary connections. The final exam or project should be related to this research. Optimally, students conduct research in Senior Courses that leads directly into their Senior Research Projects.
Senior Research Projects
The most important part of senior year is the chance for students to own their educational experiences and embark on their goals. BASIS Independent Academies require students to seek opportunities to apply what they’ve learned in research settings. The belief that young people have something valuable to contribute to their communities and to the fields – academic, artistic, philanthropic, medical, business, or otherwise – they’ll soon enter is at the core of our academic program. Seniors explore potential topics in which they would like to major and pursue a career in, while also cultivating intellectual passions and pursuits that will shape them as lifelong learners and leaders. In AP Research, students must complete an in-depth research paper and presentation. With guidance from their teacher, students master the process of determining and implementing a research methodology, evaluating and gathering the best possible resources, and diving deep into a research topic of their own interest. Throughout this yearlong process, students generate a PREP (Process and Reflection Portfolio), write an academic paper of approximately 20 pages, and present their research during an oral defense to their teacher. Academic rigor and student accountability come together in the BASIS Curriculum via the Senior Research Project, and the result is that BASIS Independent Academies students enter college prepared to excel in at least intermediate-level course work. The BASIS Independent Academies unique academic model allows students to demonstrate independent scholarship, individual accountability, disciplinary mastery, and a fluency in problem solving. Truly, our graduates leave the high school program prepared to be leaders in college and beyond.