Car & Driver’s August 2006 issue features a six-page article comparing five different sports cars. The detailed descriptions include a host of technical information as well as sophisticate aesthetic judgments; the best thing about the Porsche 911 is “its organic nature, its ability to commune with its driver.” The Jaguar XK convertible is “an easy car to underestimate. At first acquaintance it seems docile, mellow, and not at all likely to get in your face.”
Both public and private K-12 education typically represent an investment of $100,000 or so over thirteen years, a sticker price higher than that associated with any of the sports cars reviewed so lovingly. Although I would describe certain schools in similar terms, “the best thing about Athenaeum School is its organic nature, its ability to commune with your child” or “The Emerson School is an easy school to underestimate. At first acquaintance it seems docile, mellow, and not at all likely to surprise with its academic performance,” there is no glossy publication in education analogous to Car & Driver. Why do we have better product information on sports cars than we do on schools?
As an educator who specializes in individualized education, it surprises me that more parents don’t shop around for schools for their children. I am familiar with numerous cases in which students who had academic, emotional, or behavioral problems in one context flourished in another. A student who failed 7th grade science transferred to a school at which he was allowed to take AP Biology in grade 8 and achieved a “4” on the AP test, a score adequate to get credit most colleges. A student who wrote a few halting sentences at a previous school is now writing essays. A student who hid under desks at one school became a calm,