It’s easy to see why Wichita State University is open to hosting a new, private school for students in pre-K through 12th grade on its campus.
The school, called Wonder, is scheduled to open in the fall. It is a good fit for the university’s ongoing commitment to innovation.
It could become Wichita’s petri dish for education experimentation and exploration.
No grade levels, no homework, no report cards. An open floor plan that encourages collaboration. Teachers are labeled guides or coaches. Students get more say in what they study and the challenges they accept.
It’s an approach that only a new school can tackle in full, but its successes and challenges can be shared with more traditional schools.
Wonder won’t be for everyone. It joins a crowd of Wichita-area private schools, and its $10,000 yearly price tag for elementary-age students isn’t out of line with tuition rates for some other private schools.
Aside from the innovation component, it’s an odd look for a private school with a $10,000 yearly tuition to sit on the campus of a public university. But the school is paying rent for use of what had been the campus print shop and is using its own money for renovations.
Wonder’s leaders said the school is not yet prepared to offer financial aid or scholarships, and isn’t yet equipped to handle special-needs students. Zach Lahn, one of Wonder’s creators, said eventually at least a quarter of students will be on scholarship or financial aid.
We hope that happens soon, to make the school more inclusive and diverse to students, mirroring the WSU campus surrounding it. It also will be a better indicator of how the Wonder concept works with a broader range of students, reflective of enrollment in public schools.
The school has been criticized as an elitist enemy of public schools. We don’t think that’s the case. Leaders of the school could prove their critics wrong — and perform a valuable public service — if they fostered relationships with the Wichita school district and other area districts. Those relationships could include the sharing of information, shadowing opportunities and more, all with a goal of finding ways to implement success stories at Wonder in the public schools.
There is much to like about the vision of Wonder and its creators. Philosophies for primary and secondary education have continued on the same path for decades, with small detours that don’t change the direction much.
Wonder is forging its own path, with help from some other innovative schools across the country. It will be intriguing to watch the results.