Stanford's Ed School started a charter school some years ago. I wrote a month ago on how it hasn't gone well. NY Times: Charter Extension Denied To Low-Scoring Stanford School. Eduwonk commentary here.
It seems from the Times article that the Stanford approach is:
1. Focusing on a kid's social/emotional needs, instead of academic needs, is a better way to help him academically.
2. If our kids do badly, it's because they had a really tough starting point, not because we had the wrong strategy in #1.
3. If schools with identical demographics do well on standardized tests, and our kids do badly, then it's not because we had the wrong strategy in #1. It's because the tests are flawed.
I don't think I can emphasize enough how often this "social/emotional development" meme plays out in real life schools.
And of course, no single charter school can possibly be "Stanford's." It seems to be that the connection is to a few key Stanford Ed School profs. Perhaps a number of faculty have privately fretted for years that there are problems in the charter school, but they didn't have the inclination/juice to change things.
Far more interesting is I learned from Wikipedia the origin of Stanford's Tree Mascot. From Ol' Reliable (Wikipedia):
From 1972 until 1981, Stanford’s official nickname was the Cardinal, but, during this time, there was debate among students and administrators concerning what the mascot and team name should be. A 1972 student referendum on the issue was in favor of restoring the Indian, while a second 1975 referendum was against.
The 1975 vote included new suggestions, many alluding to the industry of the school's founder, railroad tycoon Leland Stanford — the Robber Barons, the Sequoias, the Trees, the Cardinals, the Railroaders, the Spikes, and the Huns. The Robber Barons won, but the university's administration refused to implement the vote.
In 1978, 225 varsity athletes started a petition for the mascot to be the griffin, but this campaign also failed. Finally, in 1981, President Donald Kennedy declared that all Stanford athletic teams would be represented exclusively by the color cardinal.
However, in 1975, the Band had performed a series of halftime shows that facetiously suggested several other new mascot candidates it considered particularly appropriate for Stanford, including the Steaming Manhole, the French Fry, and the Tree. The Tree ended up receiving so much positive attention that the Band decided to make it a permanent fixture, and thus began the process through which the Tree has gradually colonized the collective unconscious of Stanford's student body.
During the first decade of its existence, the role of the Tree was generally performed by the Band managers' girlfriends. In the mid-1980s, however, the Band adopted a more formal selection process for its Trees.
Today's Tree candidate must go through "grueling and humiliating physical and mental challenges" to show that he or she has sufficient chutzpah to be the Tree. During "Tree Week," candidates have been known to perform outrageous, unwise, and often dangerous stunts in order to impress the Tree selection committee; so much so that the University has felt the need to prohibit certain types of audition activities over the years, such as those involving explosives, firearms, and, reputedly, haggis.