Stanford New School’s charter elementary posted much higher test scores in 2010. But signs of improvement came too late. The three-year-old elementary in East Palo Alto, run by Stanford’s School of Education, was closed in April for poor performance and classroom management problems by the Ravenswood City School District board.
Start-up schools take a few years to get off the ground, Dean of Education Deborah Stipek told the Palo Alto Weekly.
“If you look at many charter schools, the first few years don’t look that great — and then there’s often a jump.”
East Palo Alto Charter School (EPACS), run by Stanford’s former partner, Aspire, posted low scores in its early years, Stipek said. It’s now the top-performing public school in East Palo Alto with consistently high test scores, despite serving an all-minority, low-income student body.
Stipek complained, with justice, that the Ravenswood board had a conflict of interest. By closing the Stanford school, the K-8 district reclaimed 150 students, boosting revenues.
The Ravenswood board kept open the Stanford-run high school, which was started nine years ago. Its scores remain quite low, especially compared to Aspire’s fledgling high school, Phoenix. Why did the board keep it open? Well, East Palo Alto students are much more likely to earn a diploma and go on to college (usually community college) if they go to the Stanford charter instead of Sequoia Union High School District schools. But it’s also true that closing the high school would send students and revenues to Sequoia, not to Ravenswood. The K-8 district had an incentive to close the elementary school but not the high school.