Nearly all of the top 10 public high schools in Arizona, as ranked by average SAT score, are charter schools, with BASIS Charter Schools taking four of the spots.
The statewide ranking is based on 2013 SAT test scores from The College Board, which administers the test nationwide.
Every school on the list had at least 10 students take the test last year. Of course high SAT test scores are only one indicator of a quality education.
BASIS schools also scored high on last year’s ranking, which you can see here.
Some schools encourage their students to focus on the ACT test, and may not be included in this ranking. The Arizona Department of Education also conducts its own A-F Letter Grade Accountability System that tracks current-year achievement and academic growth.
Michael Block, co-founder and CEO of BASIS Charter Schools, said his secret for student success is quality teachers.
“The secret sauce really is putting teachers in the classrooms that know their stuff,” he said. “That really means finding (teachers) who have degrees or master’s degrees or even PhDs in their subject area and not necessarily having been trained in pedagogy, which would allow you to be certified.”
He said it’s difficult to teach someone who is certified, but may not have a deep understanding of the subject matter, he said.
“It’s easier to teach someone who knows their subject how to teach,” he said. “That’s always been our approach.”
Charter schools in Arizona are required to hire “highly qualified” teachers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be certified, said Eileen Sigmund, president and CEO of the Arizona Charter Schools Association.
While some parents might cringe at the thought of having their students taught by teachers who are not certified, the SAT rankings are an interesting indicator of the quality of education charter school students are receiving.
“We pride ourselves on the commitment we get from teachers to their students and to their subject,” Block said. “Our academic program is the type of program that students in the highest performing countries around the world are exposed to. We’ve modeled ourselves to be the best in the world — not just the best in Arizona or the best in the nation.”
Arizona has 602 charter schools that enroll about 184,400 students this school year, representing about 30 percent of the state’s public schools. About 17 percent of the state’s public-school students attend a charter school.
In 2013, 21 of the top 30 public schools were charter schools, based on the state education department’s A-F Letter Grade rankings.
This is not to say that all charter schools are top scoring schools.
Forty-one charter schools received D grades in 2012 and 2013, and may face F labels in 2014, putting them in danger of being shut down by the state.