Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Case Against High-School Sports

The author mentions BASIS schools in Az.

Basis public charter schools, located in Arizona, Texas, and Washington, D.C., are modeled on rigorous international standards. They do not offer tackle football; the founders deemed it too expensive and all-consuming. Still, Basis schools offer other, cheaper sports, including basketball and soccer. Anyone who wants to play can play; no one has to try out. Arizona’s mainstream league is costly to join, so Basis Tucson North belongs to an alternative league that costs less and requires no long-distance travel, meaning students rarely miss class for games. Athletes who want to play at an elite level do so on their own, through club teams—not through school.

Basis teachers channel the enthusiasm usually found on football fields into academic conquests. On the day of Advanced Placement exams, students at Basis Tucson North file into the classroom to “Eye of the Tiger,” the Rocky III theme song. In 2012, 15-year-olds at two Arizona Basis schools took a new test designed to compare individual schools’ performance with that of schools from around the world. The average Basis student not only outperformed the typical American student by nearly three years in reading and science and by four years in math, but outscored the average student in Finland, Korea, and Poland as well. The Basis kid did better even than the average student from Shanghai, China, the region that ranks No. 1 in the world.

“I actually believe that sports are extremely important,” Olga Block, a Basis co-founder, told me. “The problem is that once sports become important to the school, they start colliding with academics.”

Amanda Ripley, an Emerson Fellow at the New America Foundation, is the author of the new book The Smartest Kids in the World—and How They Got That Way.

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