When It Comes to Education, We All Can Do Better Than Simply Trusting the Experts

Ok, let’s get something straight. Just because you name something a charter school, and even just because you give it charter-like freedoms, does not guarantee success. These schools provide an opportunity for innovation, for something outside the norm. And most importantly, they are afforded the conditions that better empower students, teachers and principals to build success.

To bring home the point that nothing is guaranteed, last week the New York Times reported on a California charter school that, according to some experts, should have had all the ingredients for success, except it didn’t succeed:

Yet despite the support of some of the nation’s finest educators, the benefits that a great university can provide and spending $3,000 per student above the state average, Stanford New School was not able to become the national model that the School of Education set out to create in 2001 when it opened its first charter institution….

Stanford’s educators expected that with excellent teachers, many trained at the university, they could provide state-of-the-art instruction, preparing students to become “global citizens.” While Stanford New School does better than most other California schools in student retention and sending them to college, the students’ standardized test scores are low. East Palo Alto is also a tough place to experiment — of the 12 schools in the district, 3 landed on the state’s new list of worst-performing schools.

Eduwonk says it’s “hard to miss the irony.” Rick Hess suggests “the reputed experts may know less than we presume.” Tell me again why we put so much faith in the traditional schools of education? Maybe there actually is something to good, old-fashioned ideas like instilling and reinforcing good student habits.

It looks like Stanford New School was another splash of cold water in the face of so-called experts. You know, the same type who frequently insist they know what’s best for you and your family. You know, the type who is threatened or repulsed by our informative and empowering School Choice for Kids website.