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2 schools outperforming their Valley peers

PHOENIX — They may have two different philosophies, but both Basis Scottsdale and Griffith Elementary in Phoenix are producing similar results.

Newsweek has ranked Basis Scottsdale one of the top 10 schools in the country annually since 2006 and Griffith Elementary earned an “A” rating from the Arizona Department of Education for its spring AIMS test results.

“I really think it speaks to the collaboration among teachers so that we’re improving our own learning which also helps students improve,” Griffith Principal Alexis Wilson said.

Even a decade ago, Griffith was a leader in the Balsz School District, but Wilson said a few years ago they hit a plateau.

“At the time we were using the ‘performing’ and ‘performing-plus’ labels,” Wilson said, “We were performing plus, which was pretty good, but we stayed there for quite a while.”

Griffith’s success can be attributed to new training for teachers, Wilson said.

“We’re really moving teachers out of isolation and into collaboration,” she said. “When you’re in a classroom, it’s you, the four walls and the 25-plus students in the classroom. But we’ve asked teachers to open their doors and share, and that’s where we’ve found a lot of our success.”

Basis Scottsdale knows about success. It’s one of the eight Basis charter schools in the state, producing Ivy League graduates and tests scores that rank near the top in the nation. The Washington Post ranked Basis Scottsdale the “No. 5 Most Challenging High School in the Nation.”

“It’s compulsory for our ninth-grader to take a minimum of one AP exam, our 10th-grader a minimum of two, 11th grade a minimum of three,” Basis Scottsdale Principal John Hillis said.

A combination of the culture, the teachers, and a rigorous curriculum is what sets Basis apart, Hillis said.

Nearly every student who took an AP exam at Basis in 2012 received a three or higher, according to Hillis. One student who took the Mandarin Chinese AP test received a five, the highest possible score.