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Striving for Excellence: K-12 Education

Craig Barrett, retired CEO of Intel and board member of the BASIS schools, discusses the importance of technology for Arizona’s economic future.Semiconductor manufacturing, such as is shown in this footage of Intel, and other technology fields offer special fields of study to Arizona residents.

Arizona faces many challenges in the coming years. Balancing water resources with urban development, mining operations that maintain the integrity of our land and natural resources, and preserving our history while looking ahead are just a few of the complex issues faced by the next generations. We must invest in the future to give students the skills they need to meet these challenges with integrity. 

Arizona is exploring ways of engaging students to become a vibrant workforce in the 21st century. Administrators emphasize the development of problem solving and critical thinking skills.  New curricula teach students to be independent thinkers by encouraging creativity, demanding communication, instilling research skills, inviting analysis and promoting digital literacy. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (known collectively as STEM) education plays a central role.

Leadership in the biotech, aerospace, solar energy, and nanotechnology industries gives rise to innovative curricula and school programming, both in K–12 and in Arizona’s Universities (LINK). Experts in these fields help educators inspire young minds with both in-classroom and out of the classroom learning activities. A broad system of vocational schools lets students develop skills for direct application to Arizona’s industries. Finally, a growing system of charter schools gives parents a choice in high quality, specialized education that drives a student to achieve his or her maximum potential. Read on for a sample of the state’s outstanding educational opportunities.

Charter Schools

Arizona has one of the best charter school programs in the country, with a number of institutions garnering high national rankings. Charter schools provide academic choices beyond a student’s school district. Charter schools receive money from the state based on student attendance. A parent can choose to send their K–12 student to any charter school, and there are many to choose from. Every charter school has its own individual mission or vision. Some specialize in a certain subject or group of subjects such as STEM; some implement innovative teaching methods.

The ten BASIS schools in Arizona use an accelerated curriculum where students participate in Advanced Placement courses and complete required coursework in three years. They then have the option to graduate or to stay and complete a senior project that emphasizes independent learning and creative thinking. A dedicated staff helps students meet the demands of the high expectations, while an array of unusual extracurricular activities (roller derby, cycling, fencing, and robo-rocketry, to name a few) keeps students engaged. In 2013, BASIS Tucson and BASIS Scottsdale ranked #1 and #3 Charter Schools in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

The K–12 Sonoran Schools franchise strives to be America's premier STEM school organization, providing a rigorous, college-prep, STEM-focused education through an engaging curriculum, dedicated teachers, and ongoing performance assessment. In 2013, Sonoran Science Academy Tucson ranked fifteenth Schools in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

Located in Flagstaff, the 6–12 charter school Northland Preparatory Academy was founded by parents in 1996 to provide a coordinated, individualized program of study that promotes academic excellence and provides educational opportunities for serious middle and high school students, regardless of  gender, ethnic origin, economic or academic ability. Northland Prep, ranked twenty-second Schools in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

The Chandler Preparatory Academy charter school provides a comprehensive liberal arts education to help students prepare for the demands of college. Chandler Prep is a member of the prestigious Great Hearts Academies network of prep schools that serves metro Phoenix.


Access to Education

Paradise Valley School District is a K–12 school district with 32 elementary schools, eight middle schools and six high schools. The district is also an Arizona Online Instruction provider with pvONLINE, which reaches students of any age by providing k-12 online instruction.

Carpe Diem, a tuition-free Arizona public school system, is leveraging technology to make education more relevant, more efficient, and more effective. The school serves grades 6–12 with a "hybrid" program consisting of on-site teacher-facilitators (coaches) and computer-assisted instruction (CAI) utilizing a computer-based learning and management system. Their only physical campus is located in Yuma, but Carpe Diem Online is making this system accessible with the touch of a button.

Specialized Training

Bioscience High School, a member of the Phoenix Union School District, offers a full, integrated curriculum with an emphasis on STEM subjects. Bioscience High School develops specific upperclassmen pathway courses that are tailored to student interests, including anatomy and physiology, epidemiology, biotechnology, engineering, and forensics.

Valley of the Sunflowers Project at Bioscience High School