Another American Indian charter school?

The American Indian Public Charter School, a once-struggling institution that rose to national prominence — and local infamy — under former director Ben Chavis, already has two sister schools (four, if you count the charters started by Chavis’s protege, Jorge Lopez).

Now they’re asking for another one: American Indian Public Charter School – AIM.

At tonight’s board meeting, director Janet Roberts presents the charter petition to the board and the state administrator (who, as of now, makes the call). The decision won’t come down until later, though.

What do you think? People have made some serious complaints about the school’s disciplinary practices in the past, and about Chavis’s temperament, in general. (You can read the profile I wrote last year about Chavis here.) I’m not sure how the school runs now, without his daily presence, but he is still involved.

Still, could the state administrator turn down charter operators who boast some of the highest test scores in the state (967 out of 1,000 on the Academic Performance Index for the original middle school; 958 for the high school; and 917 for the newer middle school)?

Should he?

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Sharon

    The state administrator should ONLY grant them permission on the condition that they exclusively enroll the types of students that they have previously managed to avoid – OUSD’s most poorly behaved, non-compliant kids with low or nonexistent levels of parent support.

    Since the whole point of charters was supposed to be innovation, I’m still waiting to see if any of them will dare to work primarily with OUSD’s neediest and most difficult-to-teach students.

    Just a few years ago, Schwarzenegger called the AIPCS a “miracle.” If Chavis and his buddies have figured out a way to produce stellar accomplishments, it should work for other students, right?

    It’s high time for the charter school operators to take on their share of kids who are constantly disrupting progress in the regular public schools. No expelling students, or pressuring them to leave the school, should be allowed.

  • oakie

    When will anti-charterists stop using this same old canard? What shred of evidence have they brought forth to prove this? Since they have not, after all this time, it should be apparent that it is simply not true.

    Now it may be true that students leave charters because of the heat their misbehavior cause. But that is exactly what the schools should do: you can enroll, but you will be held to a high standard. Violate that standard and you’re out.

    The proof is in the pudding: AIPCS produces children capable of performing well on the tests (competitive with Hillcrest). OUSD produces a 50% drop out rate (even higher for AA males) and how many of what remains are not proficient at their grade level? Well: OUSD does not hold disruptive kids to a high standard, and that is exactly why they cannot be successful.

    Listen to Obama recently? He’s on the right track.

    The underclass population using OUSD (because the middle class families are mostly taking their kids out of OUSD) are very poorly served. Allowing charters to be available for voluntary enrollment by the parents of those underclass kids is EXACTLY what is needed. To break the monopoly.

    I am in solidarity with the families who choose to avoid OUSD.

  • Azul60

    Well, there has to be a third option to break the stalemate described by the above two positions (Sharon and Oakie).

    I propose that the AIPCS could not fulfill its purpose in the same way it does now if it were required to accept a lot of difficult-to-teach students. The students the AIPCS serves will only continue to be able to study and achieve at a high level if the entire student body is held to a high standard.

    However, if we ascribe to an “anti-OUSD” view that is perfectly willing to leave a chunk of students out in the cold in order to break a “monopoly”, we will not produce any lasting change in the fabric of Oakland’s community. We will just deepen a divide. We need a way to help the parents of those “underclass kids” to enroll their children in charter schools, but only if we have provided them with support and assistance and counseling so that they and their children will not inevitably fail due to unrealistic expectations.

    I think the biggest way that we can help these kids succeed in charter schools (and any school) would be to enhance parental involvement and improve their home-environment. I believe that this plan necessitates a different sort of elementary school (either OUSD or a charter school) that prepares kids and their families to be able to take advantage of an environment such as AIPCS offers. Many kids would still fail, but the most improved students could be funneled toward matriculation into a middle school with higher academic standards. This could be a charter school or an OUSD school, but we can’t expect high test scores from students who must study shoulder to shoulder with disruptive classmates or who return to a chaotic environment after school each day.

    The biggest factor in success would be redesigning a school to effectively reach out to and deliver services to the community they serve and actively recruit and retain parents to be involved in their children’s academics. Wouldn’t that paradigm help bridge the gap between the OUSD as it is and the high standard that AIPCS sets?

  • Nextset

    Choice is always good especially when the choice comes with requirements. And the Charters provide an escape for the better families leaving the dregs at OUSD.

  • Teri Gruenwald

    I don’t get what Oakie says. On the one hand, he says that charter schools hold their students to a higher standard and that disruptive students can be kicked out of charters–presumably to return to a non-charter public school. Yet he complains that non-charter public schools don’t hold their disruptive students to the same high standards. However, non-charter schools can’t simply kick their disruptive kids out. We are stuck with our disruptive kids and they end up compromising the teacher’s right to teach and the students’ right to learn.

  • Joe Ramirez

    What are the options for Oakland taxpayers with children attending OUSD schools? Pay for private tution while also paying taxes? If this charter, and others work, then what is the problem? I think the old guard is scared of some competition.

    By the time I have kids and send them to public schools in this city, I guarantee it will be charter, unless of course a voucher system can see the light of day.

    By the way, Oakland Charter Academy was named as a Blue Ribbon School yesterday- only the second in history of this city yet here we are discussing the controversies about an individual principal who is not even a schoo leader anymore. I had to read about the sole reciepient of the Blue Ribbon from Oakland in a national paper. Not one local story Oakland Charter Academy!

    Katy, you missed this one! If I were a school memeber there, I would do away with print news! Too bad for schools such as Oakland Charter Academy and Mr. Lopez.

    This is so typical Oakland that one has to laugh. In order to get recognition in Oakland, what must a school leader do? Ben Chavis is much smarter than all of you who love to hate him! No such thing as negative press I guess.

  • John

    Teacher union opposition to charters is based on the loss of charter hired teachers who would otherwise be contributing to state and national teacher union coffers.

    Teacher unions are big business and charter schools are costing them market share. The motivation for state and national teacher uniont opposition to them is as simple as that.

    It’s good that families have a charter school choice alternative to school district/teacher union conglomerates.

    Teachers, teacher unions are NOT your friend they are involuntary deductions from your pay check.

  • Jon Simon

    I would never subject my children to such an abusive atmosphere. Humiliation is abuse.

  • Catherine


    I agree – that’s why I don’t understand those parents who send their children to Catholic Schools. In each of the Catholic Schools that I visited – about 18 of them, public humiliation was used to control the minds and bodies of the students. And you are right, it is nothing short of abuse of children, but also abuse of trust and power.

    It makes great followers, not great leaders, unless you are creating a Stalin, Hitler, or George W. Bush.

  • G. Bird

    If Jon Simon is right, the public schools in Oakland are abusing the hell out of our kids, because there is no one more humiliated than an ignorant, uneducated man.

    I don’t care if it is a charter school, a public school, a private school, or a clown school. If kids are getting an education, I support it.

    It seems some people are more interested in making kids feel good about themselves than they are in giving the kids something to feel good about! Help me understand how that makes sense.

    It is all politics. If there were five public schools in Oakland performing at these levels, the city would have a damn parade for them.

    We’ve got seniors who can’t read, pregnant teenagers getting shot in the street, and kids slinging dope who haven’t hit puberty yet, and we’re more worried about kids feeling embarrassed than we are about them getting educated. Seems like we’re getting the educational system we deserve in this town.

    And they are going to suffer for our sins. That is abuse.

  • Nextset

    Jon Simon & Catherine: Good for you if you don’t want to send YOUR children to this man’s school.

    But others do. And they have a reason for it.

    You don’t get it about public humiliation. You really don’t. Hilarious!

    Chavis is really old school. Sometimes his tactics can make a difference between bad results and good results. They may not be for everyone. But you know what – take a look at the military – I have associates who went to US Service Academies at age 18, I have friends who went to boot camp at 18. Take a look at workplaces – I have friends who’s workplace is just as rough, perhaps with good reason. People can get hurt and killed if things don’t go as they are supposed to. Take a look at the living conditions for people of all ages inside the USA, Compton, Los Angeles, New York City, and then look at urban Moscow and Peking (still love to use that name). There’s lots of humiliation and worse to come in this world if you don’t learn to avoid it.

    The world is not marshmallow sundae and you and your kids live in it your way and the families who knowingly use this Charter School live in it their way. As long as there is no deception and people have choices – it’s good enough.

    By the way, the complaints about life in Oprah’s little boarding school in Africa (not the abuse by the female staffers but the rules of the house) are in the same vein.

    And Catherine, the Catholic Schools that I went to were run as described in this school. I wouldn’t be where I am without that experience and neither would a lot of my classmates from that school – especially the ones who were NOT cognitively gifted. The hard knocks (you do know they hit the kids when lines were crossed..) in those schools taught us how to maneuver and succeed in this Brave New World.

    For some kids this education can mean the difference between making it and not. Maybe you don’t agree. That’s your opinion. People vote with their feet. I don’t see empty schools here. You don’t have the power to impose your will on these people.

  • Katy Murphy

    Joe Ramirez: I actually didn’t receive word about the Oakland Charter Academy’s Blue Ribbon status, and I’m out of town at the moment. Thanks for noting the omission, but I assure you, it was nothing intentional!

  • Sharon

    Oakie and Nextset: Maybe you’d like the eventual outcome to be that every functional student gets skimmed out of the school district. When the students at the “regular” public schools are a pure concentration of “dregs,” I wonder what will happen then.

    It’s like a movie theater where 97% of the people are behaving normally but a few are acting completely wild, making it miserable for everyone else. Since the management won’t deal with the wild ones, the masses are compelled to get up and leave.

    I would prefer the management to deal with the wild ones now. It would make life lovely for everyone else. That’s what has been appealing to me about some of Nextset’s ideas.

    As far as AIPCS goes, its highly structured atmosphere has certainly made a huge difference, but it’s not the only thing that has produced the high test scores. The demographic changes have certainly played a role, too, especially the components of the demographics that are not measured: parent style, family stability, home values, etc.

    I’m serious when I suggest that AIPCS should start a school that takes the most difficult of Oakland’s students. They have the mindset and sensibility that might be able to develop a model that could work. That’s the type of innovation really needed in Oakland.

    By the way, here are the demographic trends at AIPCS over the past 12 years (1996-97 to 2007-08) according to DataQuest:

    The percentage of Asian or White students: 0.0, 2.9, 6.2, 0.0, 2.9, 0.0, 1.2, 25.7, 44.6, 33.7, 22.4 and 38.4.

    The percentage of American Indian or Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, Filipino, Hispanic or Latino, or African American students: 100.0, 97.0, 93.8, 100.1, 97.0, 100.0, 98.7, 74.3, 55.4, 65.3, 51.1, and 50.5.

    The percentage of “multiple or no response” students: 0.0 for each of the 10 years from 1996-97 to 2005-06. Oddly, around the time that the question of possible demographic engineering was being raised, that number soared to 26.4% (2006-07). In 2007-08 it was 11.1%.

  • Nextset

    Sharon, you have a point. But I like choice and people have a right to vote with their feet in education.

    More ominous thing about the blacks is the mortality rate. Look at the AIDS numbers. It’s a disease ready-made for killing off one ethnic and not the other (It’s largely behavioral). Prison incarceration is also a “mortality” issue. I like the 3 strikes system even though it’s not enforced/barely enforced in black controlled areas.

    This is an education blog and you are pointing out how the racial numbers are moving towards segregated schools with the dregs of society in schools of their own. I could reduce that I think, by turning up the heat in the public schools so that the students there would cook properly and not spoil.

    But I’m very worried about the mortality rates. In a normal society the government, be it state or federal, would take action to “right” the premature deaths – instead we have very carefully promoted the spreading infections by blocking normal disease control only in a disease where blacks are the primary target of the spread.

    Or is this a matter of letting evolution proceed…

    The schools are a part of the AIDs thing since the data that I’ve been given locally is that the avg new Dx now in my area is a black female age 24 infected for 10 years. Which puts this problem squarely into the public school system as incubators/vectors. In schools where no form of self control is taught… you have these problems.

    The AI Charter appears to be a school where there is a real premium for the kids to learn to stay out of trouble – and watch the grammar and spelling too because you might wind up in front of the class being “humiliated”. Kind of like the Old Catholic grade school. I think those kids will wear better.

    brave New World.

  • Jon Simon

    Chavis isn’t old school. He’s out of date, like a physician bleeding humors or an accountant doing your taxes with old forms.

    Humiliation and fear do not lead to consistent harder work, nor better performance. There is often a brief increase in work followed by an extended drop, and the long term effect is debilitation.

    Slaves are horribly inefficient workers. Many kids who get pushed to the edge up through high school crash and burn in college without parents cracking the whip.

    Positivity and encouragement get better results. Performance grows stronger and self-perpetuates. Notice I’m not saying anything about self-esteem or undeserved praise.

    Einstein didn’t discover relativity under threat. I doubt Bill Gates’ childhood at Lakeside Prep School was filled with adults yelling at him.

  • Jose, Former Student


    Your student data on the Native American charter school is deceiving. From 1996-2001 the school often had far less student than they do now.

    I note the following:

    1. For example, From 1996-2001 there was 40 or less 6th-8th greade students in the school each year on the average.In 2007-2008 their was more than 175 students.

    2. A review of the student testing data shows that the school had great test schools before the Asians enrollment started in 2004.

    3. A review of the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 student California Standards Test shows that the Asians were the lowest performers at the school on the test in math and LA.

    4. Are you aware of another shool where the Mexicans, Blacks, and Native Americans have better test scores in these subjects than Asians?

    5. Where are the whites students at this school?

    Your suggesting that Asians and whites are the reason this school has high test result is not supported by the student data.

    You also said they “managed to avoid… non-compiant kids with low or nonexistent levels of parent support.” Where is your proof to support this statement?

    Do you have a list of students or one student who enrolled in this school and was kicked out because of their academics, behavior, or parent support?

  • Nextset

    Jon Simon: You just keep on thinking/saying this. Maybe it will come true one day.

    If Chavis’ tactics fail to work the families will take their kids away. There is no reported stampede for the door.

    Your belief of what motivates human beings is quaint. And people are different, so what works in one group doesn’t work for another. I don’t think you accept that people are different. If that’s the case, your position holds no water with me.

    Humiliation and fear are good tools from time to time (I sure use them). Exactly how they are used in a school system is up to the law and the sound discretion of the principal and staff. Not to you. And not to me. In this society Parents chose how to raise their kids and where to school them. Once they are in a school if the parent’s don’t like the conditions they can take Jr and go.

    My parents – and my extended familiy over the generations – put us into “competitive” primary schools which is one way of saying that you could be backhanded out of a desk by a 99lb Nun in 4th grade if you stabbed another kid with a pencil (Nobody ever went to the ER except from playground injuries). As far as humiliation goes, I don’t have time to get into high school life a long time ago. Let’s just say that nobody in their right minds went looking for trouble. Those not in their right minds got expelled rather quickly anyway and sent to ghetto continuation school.

    College and Professional School wasn’t ego boosting either. Students were dressed down in front of the class if they didn’t hold up under questioning when called on. People quit or were kicked out for performance failure. My relatives who went to med school have far more interesting stories of what was done to unsuitable students.

    And we can mention what happens in the military service academies – or boot camp. Education is education, not a walk in the park. If it was easy everybody would have it.

    You don’t get black professionals – or good black blue collar workers – by treating the black kids the way OUSD does. I can pretend that I’m Oh-So-Worried about the white kids but OUSD doesn’t have that many and they seem to be doing just fine anyway. I’m not used to seeing all this color in Prison and Diseased, you see I grew up in CA in the ’60s and this wasn’t Selma or Angola. I know things can be better – they used to BE better. Soft and comfortable schools don’t produce.

    I don’t know Chavis but my educator ancestors were as rough as he reportedly is and they had great, well attended funerals attended by their prosperous black students. So I am willing to give Chavis a pass if he gets along with most of the parents in his school.

  • Sharon

    Jose: Percentages are simple numbers, but their interpretation is up for grabs.

    I used to be affiliated with Bret Harte, the public middle school nearest to AIPCS. Several years ago, the administrators and the attendance office would notice students coming in to enroll at BH from AIPCS — in the spring, just before testing. I know about one new parent who reported that the school had been making life miserable for her not-so-great-performing child and that’s why they decided to leave. This was just one case, but because of the regularity with which the other cases happened, and their timing, you might understand why people at BH at the time suspected that AIPCS was “dumping” students. The district does not formally track this, so we won’t ever know for sure.

    I also remember one BH teacher reading a newspaper article quote from one of her students who had transferred to AIPCS after sixth grade. In it he told the reporter that he was doing so much better academically. The teacher was surprised to read that statement because the boy had been a straight-A student at BH. If the students (of any race/ethnicity) coming into AIPCS are a higher caliber than the OUSD average, that makes them a different set already – even before they have a single experience at the school. To me it is illogical to compare the accomplishments of a school that has a greater proportion of these students to the accomplishments of a school with a much greater mix of student types. Qualifiers need to be stated, otherwise the boasts are misleading propaganda.

    I am happy that Black, Latino, Asian, etc. kids are succeeding at AIPCS. Maybe one will end up being my cardiologist someday. I live near the school and see the students running laps around the block, or waiting to get picked up at the end of the day, or shopping beside me with their mothers at Farmer Joe’s before they walk home from school. Several years ago I visited the school and Dr. Chavis gave me a tour. The students are well-behaved and seem self-disciplined. However, I am certain that the parenting they have received has contributed to their demeanor immensely.

    Only a certain set of parents would seek out a school like this one and work hard to have their child admitted. This is how the school manages to avoid the other types of kids. Regular public schools must keep their doors open to all and don’t require any extra effort on the part of parents, so the two schools can’t be compared. It is not so simple that one school is doing everything right, and the other is doing everything wrong.

    Even though the tone on this blog gets testy and becomes very tiring to me, I am glad we have the chance to exchange info and ideas.

  • Sue

    Nextset Says:
    September 12th, 2008 at 9:29 am
    “And we can mention what happens in the military service academies – or boot camp.”

    Um, Nextset, excuse me, but what branch of service did you serve in? Which Academy did you attend?

    Reason I ask is that I’m an Air Force veteran (1982 – 1986) so is my husband (1979 – 1985), and this sounds to me like you simply don’t know what you’re talking about.

  • Jon Simon

    How many kids have you taught? Have you tried your humiliation and criticism technique to great success in the classroom? I’ve had the full gamut of students. With all of them, ALL OF THEM, if they screw up, you can nail them and they’ll stop, temporarily. The problem behavior always comes back, usually stronger. Keep yelling and that behavior just grows. Point out what they’re doing right consistently, praise it appropriately, then you’ll see more of the good and less of the bad.

    The same conditioning method works with animals too.

  • John

    Jon Simon Says to Nextset:

    “Have you tried your humiliation and criticism technique to great success in the classroom?”

    But Nextset said:

    “Humiliation and fear are good tools from time to time (I sure use them). Exactly how they are used in a school system is up to the law and the sound discretion of the principal and staff.”

    Nextset is a lawyer not a teacher, so I interpret his (above) statement in that context. The rest of his comment clarifies the application of his statement to school environments.

    He is also making reference to a different time and generation, when schools (and parents) were overall considerably less permissive and teachers and principals were permitted to be educators instead of pseudo Psychologists and Sociologists (many of them) under constant threat of being labeled racially insensitive in their response to a student’s refusal to be civil or minimally academic.

    So Jon, I hope you’re not teaching critical reading & thinking skills. However, you might want to tag along with your students if their getting it in another class!

    Regarding Nextset, he doesn’t need me or anyone else to defend his positions. I’m just weary of the ill informed knee jerk responses to so much of what he contributes to this forum.

    Hey, lawyers make up to five hundred dollars (& more!) an hour. What a deal! Thanks for your time Nextset! You’re a refreshing informed alternative to educrat pabulum.

    Jon you say (#15), “Slaves are horribly inefficient workers.” Are you suggesting Chavis advocates and practices some form of student slavery!? What a poor misguided little puppy you are.

  • Catherine


    I agree. I have nurtured one child to adulthood and still have one elementary school daughter. They are both incredibily intuitive, reasoning and reasonable, bright, thoughtful, outspoken people who believe the world is a great place to live – – – and while both girls faced disappointment in their lives, they thrived when there was an evironment of high expectations with consequences for failing to meet standards.

    In both the girls cases, humiliation was not used at home and when it was used in school, even when not directed at them but in a classroom they were working, they learned less that particular year, commented how they didn’t like school and were less creative in their problem solving.

    When I tell the story of the “salad bar” to my friends with kids in Catholic school, they have comments similar to – so you want kids to be parents and decision makers not the parents to be parents and decision makers.

    Okay – the kids at my daughter’s school were tired of the salt filled food. They wanted a salad bar. They heard that other schools had salad bars. They gathered students’ and parents’ signatures, talked to the principal, got parent support for supervision. In the end the salad bar will be installed within the next couple of months, because the students took the initiative, parents belived in their kids, the principal was willing to give a fair hearing and make requests of the district and everyone knows our school is better for the process – – – and the salad bar.

  • Jose, Former Student


    You note, “Percentages are simple numbers, but their interpretation is up for grabs.” How do YOU explain the following:

    1. How do you interpret that 100% of the 7th and 8th grade Mexican and Black students at AIPCS are proficient or advanced in math and over 70% the Mexicans and Blacks in 7th and 8th grade at Bret Harte are below grade level?

    2. Are you aware when students transfer to another school in the spring of the school year their Star Test results are reflected on the school they left?

    3. Could it be the student grades are inflated at Bret Hart? Therefore, a student who leaves Bret Hart with A’s and B’s could get C’s and D’s at another school.

    It appears that you prefer to distort student data to “grab” attention for your cause.

  • Nextset

    Jon Simon: If you can’t train your students to behave and perform, that’s you. I was a public school sub for 1 semester a lifetime ago. I did things my way and wound up being on the priority list for callbacks. I got out of teaching – I was just passing through. It is a difficult job to be a public school teacher. Been there, done it. Got the T Shirt.

    For me, my way works. That’s not to say I did anything like the way things were when I went to school. But I didn’t play the games other teachers did and I kept my students off balance and on their toes. They learn a lot better that way, and the time sure goes faster. I’ll not repeat some of the tactics I used – they were unpleasant to some of the people on the receiving end (they had strange ideas of where they were in the pecking order). I was at the time surprised at how happy the teachers were about things. The more the kids grumbled about me the more I was recalled. And it wasn’t all acrimony, the classes had a lot of fun also – but my way not theirs.

    Sue, I have law associates who are service academy during the beginning of the Viet Nam War in the early 60’s. I have many friends and classmates who were in both Iraq Wars. I’ve heard plenty about the way they were trained in academic and non-academic subjects. Our public schools should adopt much of those methods.

    Look people – I freely state that I use authoritarian style when the situation requires it. Teachers are not the students friends or social equals, and it’s optional if we even like each other (At least at the secondary level). And when I give a direction or make a decision I expect to be obeyed. Just like an employer. Students don’t get to mouth off and be insubordinate at school any more than at work at McDonalds or at a Hospital or Best Buy. That’s just the way I see it. Others have their own style.

    I believe my style is especially needed for proles, especially pubescent males – if you’re going to get work done. These kids, the “at risk” (for getting run over in the street?) kids, require more structure and have to be pushed into doing things, like reading and math, that they have no intention of doing otherwise.

    Others disagree – and we have the standardized tests to weigh the results of the different schools. And the winner is … Chavis??

  • Jon Simon

    Being a sub is different from being a teacher. The principal wants someone who can keep order, with essentially no expectation of learning. As I said, in the short term, you get compliance, but in the long term, you get chaos.

    Ad hominem. Look it up.

  • Nextset


  • Cranky Teacher

    Amazing how nobody ever wants to believe the truth is somewhere in between. Chavis can be a loony with a good school, discipline is good but outright humiliation is destructive, etc., etc.

    Oh, I forgot, this is the Internet, where we all have to stand at extreme ends of any discussion and shout at each other.

  • Nextset

    I’m sure not shouting… And by “humiliation” are you talking about telling an unruly 8 year old, “no fruit cup with dinner for you” in front of the other kids – or public flogging? Or branding adulterers?

    “Humiliation” is vital in training children, especially males. Shame is a learning tool and a good one. If you don’t understand that – I can’t help you here. Trying to tyeach while avoiding all shame gets you the shameless blacks we have immolating themselves in our CA cities. Your policy has done that. The very notion of producing shameless adolescents is destructive.

    And as I’ve said before, my interests are not to chase after white children and save them from something. The stats are that they do fine as a group. This government has systematically destroyed black society with sweet tasting poison since Johnson’s Great Society. That needs to change. Fixing this disaster doesn’t include warm and comfortable secondary schools.

  • John

    Jon: Here’s the definition of Ad hominem you requested me to look up for you:

    “An ad hominem argument consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking or appealing to a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the SUBSTANCE of the argument…”

    SUBSTANCE. Look it up.

  • Jon Simon

    I don’t think the answer always lies in the middle ground. I never argued against discipline, just humiliation and cruelty. Chavis may get the scores, but the ends do not justify the means, and the ends will likely not turn out as planned.

    Humiliation takes many forms, but generally it’s nonconstructive criticism in front of peers. Boys don’t need that. Girls don’t need that. Nobody needs that.

  • John

    So Jon, If “the ends do not justify the means, and the ends will likely not turn out as planned” what hope is there for the ends absent any plan at all? Catering to inner city adolescent culture and trying to pretty please your students into academic achievement is not a plan. It’s a sham that achieves little more than an “educator” pay check.

    I worked at an Oakland School in the 1980’s that had a permissive principal and, as one might predict, self permissive students. When I returned in 2001, the then principal had a firm grip on student discipline. Test scores were making annual gains until “the community” complained too long and loud about how the (ethnically incompatible) principal was too harsh and racially insensitive to the students.

    Consequently, the “racially insensitive” principal was demoted to teacher and a racially compatible teacher promoted to principal.

    The school soon fell behind and the NCLB wolves moved in for a well deserved feast.

    Oh well, at least no student feelings were hurt in the making of this “humiliating” school/student failure.

  • Nextset

    New reports out about progress in Juvenile Hall schools… It would be interesting if they get better scores than ghetto public schools. Has anyone been able to compare them? High Control vs unstructured schools with similar populations?

  • Cranky Teacher

    Hmmn, I guess this is like the debate about torture: One person’s torture is another person’s fraternity hijinks!

    John: You are taking about consistently applied discipline and consequences. I have never met a teacher who was against this. In fact, what most teachers agree on is that most administrations are too overwhelmed to uphold their end of the discipline system.

    That is very different that “humiliation” which Nextset supports.

    Jon: Of course not every answer lies in the middle. That would be a copout on actual thinking. But what I don’t see in these discussions is room for shades of grey. “Humiliation” is a good example: Teaching, I believe, is at least as much intuitive art as it is hard science, and this comes into play here as everywhere. You have to know which kids can handle what, to know the difference between keeping a kid in check and actually humiliating them.

    Telling a smug tenth grader out loud during class that he has earned a consequence for his behavior is very different than screaming at a middle-school kid he is “an embarrassment to his race” in a school hallway, as Chavis is accussed of doing. Some people would argue both are a humiliation, but think all these moments are contextual.

    What I see on here are not people really wanting to figure out solutions but just a few very angry folks trying to shift the whole debate in one direction. They (Nextset, John) think they have lost something that once was — unfettered authoritarianism — and want to see it returned.

    What would interest me is if they would make suggestions that were practical in today’s society. It is 2008. We have a history. We have a national culture. The schools exist firmly in the midst of that, not seperately. So, what should we do?

    I’m a teacher. Do you want me to scream more? Make students have good posture? Demand my adminstrators expell more students? Fail a certain percentage of students on a strict curve? Make sly, biting comments? Encourage students to join the military? What are you suggesting, Nexset/John?

  • Nextset

    Cranky – You’d not cut it as a teacher in a school I ran – or so it seems. You just don’t get it. You take everything to extreme, you seem to worry a lot also.

    But you have your school and Chavis has his. You crank out your students, and Chavis cranks out his. To each his own.

    Maybe we are reading you incorrectly, but you seem smug in your conviction that your are right about it all and everybody else is wrong. And you think your school is just fine the way it is.

    If that were true you’d have more white students. And more high functioning students (OUSD is anemic on both). Families vote with their feet. I know nothing of Chavis other than through this blog. If he keeps most of the people happy most of the time and produces the stats the people want in his school and it expands, I’d wager he’s doing something right. You don’t want to acknowledge that in any way.


  • Prophet

    My mom applied to American Indian school a few years ago to get me in. They asked her for my test scores and report cards during the application. How many other schools do this?

    My friend graduated from there and told me that only smart advanced or near advanced students get in if you are not chinese.

    If you do not believe me, go ask for an application yourself and then submit. My mom went to submit my stuff and asked about the enrollment. They said they would get back to he, but never did becasue they were full(with Chinese kids of course).

    She asked about the lottery for enrollment and Mr. Chavis started cussing her out to scare her away. So of course they are a good school! Who cant be good when the take only the top black kids in Oakland along with that many chinese kids?

    By the way, the students hate that school and Mr. Chavis for doing things that are illegal, but no one has ever done anything to them.

    Good luck at skyline Mr. Sye, we will not play that.

  • Cranky Teacher

    My quote was: “Chavis can be a loony with a good school” — clearly I was “acknowledging that in any way” he had done something right.

    Chavis, in fact, is a classic example how certain megalomaniacs can have GREAT success in schools. See: the storied drama teacher of Korean students in LA, for example, whose name escapes me.

    The problem with the genius/megalomaniac mode is:

    a) It is very difficult to repeat these successes broadly, since these are rare birds.

    b) Megalomaniacs often overstep moral and ethical bounds because they have God complexes. Chavis shoved a visting teacher, for example, which finally forced him into semi-banishment. Grown students of the guy in LA claim he was controlling and lavished attention inappropriately on certain girls. Hyper-intense coaches, like the disgraced champion in Colorado, seem more prone to abuses — or even perceived abuses, because they are so controlling.

    For every superstrict teacher WHO WAS EFFECTIVE that you remember fondly, Nextset, I warrant there were several more who were just hapless screamers and hitters. One of my children has a schoolteacher like that right now: Mean, “strict” and total lack of classroom management and the kids aren’t learning — she isn’t using discipline, she’s just letting her anger and frustration run the show.

    I had a second grade teacher I loved, everybody did. She was black and once or twice a year she would spank a black kid with a yardstick, where the class could see. I’m sure she had the tacit or explicit permission of the parents. Did it work? I don’t know. The kid stole compulsively, and was borderline mentally retarded. I still think fondly of that teacher, but I’m not sure what she did with that boy was either right or effective. It was certainly humiliating, though, and I’m sure it scared some of us into behaving more amenably.

    Finally, I guess I should respond to your latest baseless claim about my thinking: I never said my school was “fine,” or implied anything remotely like that. Keep making things up, though, it’s what you do best.

    As for “worrying” or being “irritated,” you are right: I’m pissed. You come on here every day and hijack every conversation to fit your agenda which is based on severe fallacies such as a) black people are genetically inferior; b) we live in a leftist dictatorship; c) “liberals” are to blame for the breakdown in the black family; d) economic and historical forces don’t matter, only cultural and insitutional ones do. And so on.

    Then new people visit, hear your calm drone, often filled with inarguable claims like “OUSD is dysfuntional” or “white students are doing better than minorities” and think you are a reasonable voice. But you are not.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Oh, and you didn’t answer my question. I want some teaching tips from the master.

    Besides: “Quit if it’s that bad.”

  • Nextset

    Cranky: Now that was a good post! (#36) – You really made your point!

  • Nextset

    Cranky: Having made your point, your problem is that your are personalizing your rage and not speaking to policy issues. You seem to be angry at me which is odd because I’m just an individual with a political point of view. Your anger would have it seem that I owe you and your political views alligiance and am thus guilty of some betrayal. Your attitude is similar to those attacking heresy.

    That is common among liberals who believe they own reality and any who speak against their policies are evil and must be burned at the stake or something.

    I also see it among blacks who can handle another black opposing Obama’s election.

    Educational Policy isn’t about you and me. It’s about what is correct policy for the students. I think your policy positions are tired worn and ineffectual. You don’t like my positions. You’re emotional about it. Why?

    I’m done with this exchange though. On to the next blog thread. Have a good day!

    Brave New World!

    PS: What do you think is going to happen to public school education when the economy finishes tanking – ie property tax revenue falls, and the cities & state budgets crash for real.

  • Azul60

    There is something seriously deranged about some of the back and forth on this page.

    If you believe someone is a “troll” and not contributing productively to the conversation, please ignore them. It’s the only way to discourage such voices.

    The undercurrent of monolithic generalizations about black people (that sound very racist) is particularly disturbing.

    “My notion of how to proceed in a society to bring change is not to protest the thing that is evil, but rather to let it die its own death. … I think that protests about these things, contrary to what has been said, will give it the kind of life that a fire is given when you fan it, and that it would be best to ignore it, put your attention elsewhere, take actions of another kind of positive nature, rather than to continue to give life to the negative by negating it.” –John Cage (composer)

  • John

    Azul60: Did you just get home from church? Your monolithic ‘new age’ generalization is generationless. One enlightened moment in time X eternity. The answer “YES” to “Can’t we all get along?” is the YES “the world needs now.” “What the world needs now is love. Not just for some, but for everyone.” “Those were the days my friend. We thought they’d never end. We’d sing and dance for ever and a day.” “One toke over the line sweet Jesus.” This stuff is burning my lungs! What a kick! Make love not war. Wow!

  • Nextset

    Azul60: The current orthodoxy in CA has no intention of keeping any kind of a free market or a free marketplace of ideas or commerce. Both left and right totalitarians can’t stand free anything. Suppression of speech – and free votes – is what they are all about.

    Above all they can’t take it when their dogma is questioned. They can’t defend their orthodoxy in any debate.

    Maybe I just like to challenge the status quo – and the politically correct really do think they are religious figures who must be taken on faith. I don’t have any. I go on something more real.

    Watch the charter schools rise, even the more extreme ones. Watch the public schools fall – and on the way become completely segregated by race and unable to effectively add value to the students. And watch California collapse economically – who would have thought such a thing possible in the mid 20th century?

    As far as the generalizations about black people – or asian people – jewish people – Italian… etc.. Duhhhh maybe you haven’t read Thomas Sowell’s “ethnic America” or any of the tons of studies of ethnic economics – or ethnic anything. I suppose you blame the speaker for saying anything about any group – like blacks as a group being more criminally prone… as if the data is made up by some individual waking up from a dream…

    No one can fix things in this state or this country if the truth and the data is suppressed. Suppression of reality is a hallmark of facist regimes which is why they have such a really bad track record economically in the 20th century.

    This thread is on the Charter Schools. We wouldn’t have the rise of the Charters if the Public Schools did their jobs and if NCLB hadn’t been created for some yet-to-be-seen purpose to provide money and incentives to have alternative schools for families to flee to when their public schools inevitably fail the NCLB standard. The ethnic rules built into NCLB are key to some of the games that are becoming so popular here. Like more and more Charters.

    What’s the answer to all this? Can’t say. I do know that you are going to see more and more Chavises and more and more Charters. And some of them are going to be very successful with adding academic value to their students. And they won’t do it by looking anything like the public schools they take children out of.

  • Nextset

    Cranky: Your comments on #36 were the best post yet about the problems and dangers of using autocratic personalities in public schools.

    Thinking back on the autocratic teachers I personally worked under, all I can say for them is that in my experience they only got violent when someone crossed a line we all knew – It didn’t happen often but it could happen anytime someone forgot who they were dealing with. It was kind of like learning how to not handle a cat with sharp claws. Maybe we were just lucky we didn’t have any tyrants – just strong willed religious Irish and Italian women in robes.

    Also the Sr Superior was occasionally listening in on the class using the microphone that was part of the PA system. Plus with 30 students per classroom everybody talked to everybody else and their parents. Their system seemed to work for the Black, White and Hispanic families who sent their kids to these East Bay schools for generations.

    All my relatives who were in education for at least 3 generations prior to mine were black autocrats – so I’m a little partial to it. You see, they did get results. The principal might nowadays want to put a Video camera in the classroom just in case, though. Just like on the school buses.

    I’m not vouching for Chavis personally. And your comments on the meglomaniacs – attracted to classroom teaching and carrying other problems is a true one. So there is no refutation from me to what you are saying…

    As far as the rest of your rant – it’s just a rant to me. If you can’t stand public discourse – that’s your problem. Azul60 is the same way – only wanting soft music to their liking. A pity. Not going to happen in an open debate about policy.

    I love your silly attempt to claim Black people are genetically inferior – as if. Different is not inferior. It only seems that way to liberals who are trying to suppress debate. No one but you has thrown this screed around. What else? Liberals are to blame for the breakdown in black family?? Well, let’s see. Welfare policy really has affected family formation – although the current popular black family structure does look more than a little african anyway so which came first? Gee – is it really so painful to touch on so obvious an issue in the context of discussing how OUSD and our other Urban schools are going to stay out of NCLB receivership?

    All our problems are a result of various components of what’s going on in the city and in society. To solve problems – or change anything – you need open debate. Not everyone can handle open debate or is used to it. But it is still the best way to make policy which is why ours is as bad as it is.

    I do enjoy the discussion. Ready for some new thread also.

  • Leprechaun

    Prophet- your information is wrong. I don’t know if you are lying intentionally or just misinformed, but at AIPCS, the application specifically asks you to white out any grades or test scores that appear on any materials provided. AIPCS accepted and enrolled EVERY student that applied for enrollment last year. The only students who were turned down were those who applied after the deadline date (imposed on AIPCS by OUSD).

    Let me reiterate: ALL students who applied before the due date were accepted.

    This does not reflect the accusations that the school screens for test scores/grades, or that the school is concerned with race as a condition of enrollment. In fact, asian students are some of the school’s lowest performers.

    Those who are voicing criticism about discipline practices should visit the campus and then will be able to witness first hand the methods employed. No punishment is ever given that a student hasn’t earned. Severe punishments are used only on severe problems. AIPCS kids don’t behave like their hoodlum peers from OUSD, because they know it won’t be tolerated. They dress and behave and learn like responsible young adults.

    Chavis is a strong personality. Many don’t like him because of that personality. But the results speak for themselves. AIPCS is the fifth-highest achieving middle school in California. This is the result of hard work and emphasizing standards-based curriculum. The kids are prepared for their tests and take pride in out-performing themselves each year. The current goal is to hit 1000- a score that would mean that every student in every test area earned “Advanced”.

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