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Old School vs. New School: BASIS Independent McLeanOld School vs. New School: BASIS Independent McLean

By Brett Graham, DC school HUB Correspondent

Today, private schools are seeing a shift backed by research on how students learn best. From that research new schools are establishing themselves to push the needle in a much needed new direction.

There are a few schools newly established or on the horizon of opening that are testing the traditional and even progressive models of education. Over the next several weeks we will continue to highlight some of them, including Blyth-Templeton AcademyFusion Academy, and Acton Academy. Today we will focus on BASIS Independent McLean.

Walking up to the front doors of BASIS Independent McLean, one cannot help but think that awesomely smart stuff is going on inside. Then when you run into Head of School Sean Aiken, you know it to be true. With a look that screams wacky, fun-loving professor and a pedigree to back it up, Sean is the face of a new generation of top school administrators. More from Sean in a minute.

The BASIS.ed model that created BASIS Independent McLean was the brainchild of Dr. Michael and Olga Block, two economists who felt that the American education system lacked challenge and adequate rigor. The result was the creation of BASIS Tucson Primary in 1998 located in Tucson, Arizona. Since then the BASIS.ed brand has spread across the United States with 16 charter schools and 4 other BASIS Independent schools.

The brand’s McLean location opened this past fall in 2016 accepting students age 3 up to grade 10. It will add grade 11 and 12 in subsequent years. The ideal schools size is 800 students. That’s a tall order for a school in such a competitive marketing. In an exclusive interview with DC school HUB, Sean Aiken talks about how they see themselves as different from other area schools. “Our goal is to provide an educational experience that allows our students to perform at the highest international levels, and as not all of our neighbors use those same metrics of evaluation, sometimes it’s difficult to compare.  That said, our curriculum is enriched with challenging content in both the liberal arts and sciences and as we grow we look forward to continuing to evolve to meet the needs of 21st century problems.”

A source who works at an independent school that will compete with BASIS Independent McLean for students, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, “You’re darn right we are watching this closely. Our school has a projected 80% plus overlap with who we serve and where they live. Certainly we will see many applicants also applying to BASIS [Independent McLean]. Others are more skeptical of the future of the school. A quick look at our favorite gossip website (who we trolled for weeks until they banded us) has a lot of parents leaving because the school is too rigorous.

The longevity of the BASIS.ed model has yet to be tested. Will it last in the DC area or will it be seen a short-term fad? Time will tell.

To learn more about BASIS Independent McLean click here.

Lending A Helping Hand Might Help When You’re Stressed

by Marissa Kushner, Ph.D., Georgetown Psychology Associates

For many of us, we strive for balance among the demands of multiple roles and responsibilities. Consequently, navigating life’s daily stress becomes a part of the routine. While our body’s response to acute stress can be adaptive (particularly when faced with actual threat), chronic activation of the stress response system results in increased risk for several negative physical and emotional outcomes. As such, identifying effective methods to reduce stress, and its associated consequences, is critical.  Interestingly, research has suggested that helping others and engaging in prosocial behavior may mitigate the negative impact of stress.

In a recent article in Clinical Psychological Science, Emily Ansell and colleagues published findings about how engaging in prosocial behavior (in naturalistic settings) impacted adults’ response to daily stressors. Interestingly, Ansell and colleagues found that engaging in prosocial behavior toward strangers and acquaintances (e.g., asking someone if they need help, helping someone with schoolwork) buffered the negative impact of stress on individuals’ mood and mental health.

Notably, the authors acknowledged that it currently is unknown how engagement in prosocial behavior decreases the negative outcomes associated with stress.  However, what is clear is that helping others, even those with whom we do not have a close relationship, is a way to protect ourselves from the adverse impacts of stress.  As we close the door on 2016, hopefully we can reflect on the year ahead and increase our efforts to take better care of ourselves and those around us by incorporating small acts of kindness into our 2017 daily routines.

How to Prepare Your Child for a Private School VisitHow to Prepare Your Child for a Private School Visit - DCschoolHUB

by Liz Yee, Director of Admission, Lowell SchoolPP-Visit.jpg

Congratulations! You’ve done your research, gotten testing and recommendations lined up, applied to a few schools, and maybe even identified a school that feels like the perfect fit for your child and family. Now it’s time for your child to visit the school. The school visit can create some anxiety for kids (and maybe for you, too!). Below are some suggestions to help your child make it through the visit and shine.

Plan your child’s applicant visit well in advance

If you are applying to multiple schools, chances are you will need to schedule your child to visit each school. Read the admissions pages on the school’s websites to get a sense of what is required. Will it include a play visit? A full day of visiting? A Saturday group? Then, get the visits scheduled. This will be tedious, but if you work in advance you’ll have the best choice of visit dates.

A few things to think about:

  • Know your family’s schedule before you book the visit. It’s important to know when there may be some disruptions in your household (Grandma is visiting, Dad is traveling, Mom has some late-night meetings, etc.) and work around those dates. If your child’s routine is in place prior to the visit, your child will be more emotionally prepared to participate.
  • Know your child’s schedule before you book the visit. Is there a field trip coming up? PARCC testing or an exam that your child can’t miss? A class performance? Get this information before you book the visit; it will save you time and hassle of changing times later.
  • It might be tempting to try and plan your child’s visit on a day when they are already off from school. Sometimes the timing works out, but many times it doesn’t. Schools have similar schedules, and if your child’s school is closed, most likely the school you are applying to will be as well.
  • Be flexible and responsive. Admissions visits usually take place in the winter. Unfortunately, this means that snow days and sickness may affect your child’s visit. If a visit date needs to changed, do your best to make the rescheduling process easy. In many cases, admissions offices are working with hundreds of applicants—a snow day means there may be dozens of students to reschedule.
Start to prepare your child for a possible school change

If your child is younger, the applicant visit might be the first clue that a change may be coming. I often get questions from parents about how they should prepare their child and how much information about a school change is best to share. If you are a parent of a young child, trust your gut about how much information is appropriate to communicate—you know your child best.

By the time your child is applying to high school, it is best to have an open dialogue about the change and allow your child to participate meaningfully in the application process. You can start by having your child look at high school brochures and think about what they value in a school.

For language you can use to explain a school change to younger children and more advice on involving your adolescent in the school search process, download “What to Say to Kids About School Visits.”


Be sure your child gets a full night’s sleep before the school visit

This may seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating and vitally important. Whether the visit is an hour or a full day, having had a good night of sleep helps children present their best selves and gives them the cognitive and social stamina to navigate anything that comes their way. A warm bath for your young child, a few extra books before bed, their special stuffed animal—pull out all the tricks to get your child to bed on time!

Good Night's Sleep.jpg

Have your child eat a healthy, protein-packed breakfast

We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It can also be one of the trickiest if you have picky eaters or your mornings are rushed. Try to stick to your normal morning routine, and be sure your child is fueled up for the day. There are some studies that indicate eating a healthy breakfast supports improved cognition, improved academic performance, and longer attention spans. If you pack and snack or lunch for your child, make sure it’s a balanced meal with more protein, but full of yummy foods that are familiar and enjoyable.

Make sure you know the drop-off and pick-up details

No one wants to come to the visit running late, flustered, or stressed. Starting the visit off on the right foot is key—especially for your child.

  • Get all of your questions answered a few days in advance. Many admissions offices will call with details or send a reminder email. If you still have questions, don’t hesitate to follow up.
  • Know how to get to the school, where to park, and where to meet your point of contact.
  • Find out what your child needs to wear, whether or not you need to pack a snack/lunch, as well as time/location of pick-up.
  • Does your child have allergies or other medical conditions that the school should be aware of? Let the admissions office know well in advance so that they can be sure your child is safe while visiting.
  • For older applicants, a reminder about making eye contact, shaking hands, and trying to connect with classmates couldn’t hurt.
  • A quick goodbye and reassuring hug are all most older children need to get off and running!
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