Denied: new American Indian charter school

The five local schools that use the American Indian Public Charter model might be among the highest-scoring public middle and high schools in Oakland (not to mention the state), but tonight, the state administrator stopped a new one from opening.

David Montes de Oca, Oakland’s charter schools director, was careful to say that his recommendation to deny the charter petition “is not a condemnation of the American Indian Public Charter School model or its schools — far from it.”

The problem, Montes de Oca said, was that the petition contained flaws relating to enrollment processes, recruitment, special education, and arts education (Here’s the report. If you can’t open that, go to the board agenda under N). He said the denial recommendation represented a shift in charter authorizations in OUSD — that, from here on out, they will be subject to tougher standards.

Ben Chavis, the infamously outspoken, un-politically correct and sometimes combustible former director of American Indian, showed up to the meeting, along with the schools’ current — and far more mellow — administrators, Janet Roberts and John Glover.

If anyone was dozing off before Chavis’s speech, they were shaken from their semiconscious state soon after he stepped to the podium. I wish I had the whole thing on video, but here are a few quotes:

On charters, in general: “I think there’s too many charter schools in Oakland — too many sorry ones, and you should close them.”

On the model he created: “You ain’t done nothing compared to what I’ve done in education.”

On how he would implement the model in other Oakland public schools for free: “I don’t need your money… I’m an Indian who bought America, and now I’m leasing it back to you.”

On the common assumption that the schools’ test scores have only risen because of their Asian student populations (directed to Chinese-American board member Gary Yee): “Pull it up on your computer, Mr. Yee. Your people are the lowest performing (at American Indian school)…”

Before the meeting, Chavis told me that he had fully expected that the district would deny the petition. If Kmart could have kept the Wal-Mart stores from opening, he reasoned, wouldn’t they have done the same thing? (Afterward, on his way out, he muttered, “Crooks!”)

What do you make of the Wal-Mart analogy?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Nextset

    I find all of this extremely entertaining. Chavis has his detractors but I’m encouraged by his in-your-face production of results. He’s got his existing franchise, let’s see how things go over time. And he’s right about K-Mart.

    Good education is rough and tumble. And yes, it requires Alpha Males not Feminists. Chavis reminds me of the Old School educators and I mean by that some of my ancestors. They could be very difficult people. But their students reached the top of their respective fields and their students could have been the janitors that some of their siblings became. Tough education and burning ambition by proxy made the difference between that student becoming a laborer like others in their families or becoming a physician, scientist, skilled tradesman or even (groan) a lawyer.

    By the time the secondary school students or college students were done being stress tested by these old school educators they were able to stand on their own in the Cruel Hard (White, Early to Mid 20th Century) World.

    And today is no different. So say what you will about Chavis – we have seen his kind before and they can produce results. Our kids need this kind of education.

  • Susan

    I thought Ben Chavis retired? It’s what parents at the school have been saying- AIPCS cannot survive unless Chavis and the Chinese students stay.

    Now, my daughter was there with Ben, and it was good and we did not have all of the Asians they have now. The API was high, but not this unrealistically high percentage which is due to asians for the most part. I as a Black parent admit it- asians are much better students,than all else overall.

    My nephew, who was there but left last year, stated the the current administrators do not know what they do and check with Chavis( who was supposed to be retired) all of the time before taking any action. The new leaders are all white wealthy kids from what I understand. This is no longer what AIPCS was about initially.

    The school needs a leader that can survive even when the Asians and Ben leave.

    I know Ben, he will manipulate numbers and stats – but the truth is Asians will put up with it and not give lip- Mexicans and Blacks dont. Then again- isint Chavis retired?

  • Jose, Former Student


    I reviewed the Star test at the Indian Charter school and the Asians have lower test scores than the Mexican and black students.

    I find it insulting that you would accuse anyone of manipulating test scores when Mexican and Black students score higher on state test than Asians and whites.

    Could you ever accept that the Mexican and Black students at the Indian school worked hard and earned their high academic achivement?

    I am a Mexican and could care less about a teacher’s race when they do their job. What is your problem with great teachers who are white?

  • Nextset

    Jose: When reported stats run against expectations you look for the reason why.

    Black students test against national norms (higher) at schools located alongside military bases – and the reason why is the selective admission process of the military creating a atypical pool of black students. It’s no more a “racist” thing to observe this than it is to note significantly higher black rates of Diabetes – or domestic violence. It is what it is.

    There is nothing wrong about double checking your numbers when you have anomalies. That’s called quality control. The science is called Statistics.

    Any small group can produce any kind of different numbers. But the averages are the averages. If one school were to show an unusual change from their own historic averages, you want to ensure the scoring is accurate.

    Stop crying racism – you won’t ever be able to recognize the real thing if you keep doing this.

  • Rose

    I am sick of hearing what a great school this is. Any school that can pick and choose the students it admits – and that can get rid of poor performing students just before test time – can achieve high test scores.

  • Jose, Former Student


    Did I say it was racism? could it be some people are to quick to give credit to Asians or Whites without checking the facts?

    Could it be the students at this school work hard and earn their high test scores?


    I have addressed your issue that schools, “can get rid of poor performing students just before test time” in the past.

    Do you relize, when a student leaves a public school a couple months befor their state test the student’s results are given to the school they left?

    I hope you get over your sickness, however, I doubt it will happen any time soon regarding this school.

  • Susan


    I must say you are very well informed about school testing and data. I wonder if you even went to AIPCS and are not simply a member of the school?

    Whatever the case may be, when my BLACK daughter attended she has to submit test scores. When my BLACK niece applied she was asked to submit test scores as well. So even if the Chinese are the lowest, this only means AIPCS takes only the smartest Blacks.

    On the racist note,one of my family members from Lighthouse Charter attended AIPCS briefly. Ben referred to them as the Whitehouse due to white leaders there. Now he has white leaders, so is it still American Indian School?

  • Jim Mordecai


    You claimed you reviewed the STAR testing results for the American Indian Charter School. Where did you get this information and for what year?

    I looked on the Department of Education website and it gave only test results for Asians at the American Indian Public Charter school because the other ethnic group were not statistically a large enough populaion at the school to be defined as significant.

    However, the OUSD website lists for American Indian Public Charter the test scores for the American Indian Public Charter High School instead of the American Indian Public charter school that is a Junior High rather than a high school.

    For the American Indian Public Charter High School in 06-07, I looked at the percentage of each listed ethnic group scoring at or above proficient. These scores was all over the map and this data would be difficult to use to assert that African Americans and Hispanics were outperforming Asians at the American Indian Public Charter High School.

    9th grader scores had African Americans 100% score in English at proficient or above while Asians were trailing at 85%. Hispanics were in the middle of the two groups scoring 95% in English and trailing Asians in Math at 66%. Asians out scored African Americans and Hispanic students 91% to 72% to 76% at proficient or above for science. In Math and Science the sterotype about Asian students held up with the exception that the American Indian students at 100%, 100% and 67% beat out the Asian students’ score in all categories except science.

    10th grade did not have any scores listed for African American students. But, the Hispanic students beat out Asian students with 92% proficient or above in both English and Math. While the Hispanic students also received 92% proficient in Science, they were edged by the Asian students 100% proficient in science.

    Asians as an ethnic group were weakest in English and strongest in Science. This is not a surprise.

    Although it may not be satistically significant, it was a surprise to me that the American Indan students were scoring 100% proficient and above in both English and Mathematics.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Jose, Former Student

    Jim Mordecai and Susan,

    Thanks for the compliment regarding me being well informed. I had some good teachers at Skyline High School.

    I looked at the Star Test for 2007-2008 American Indian Public Charter School. It has test data on every public school in California.

  • Jim Mordecai


    Were do I obtain the document you are looking at for 2007-2008 test scores of American Indian Public Charter School and every school in California?

    Jim Mordecai

  • Jim Mordecai


    If Measure N passes $18 million will be provided to “successful” charter school programs.

    Let’s us speculate that success is defined by test score data by the Measure N citizens oversight committee. And, let’s further assume that AYP is used to index success and a charter school scoring 8 or better out of 10 is considered successful and entitled to a taste of $1.8 million of Measure N for 10 years.

    Jose, how many charter schools would be splitting that $1.8 million? What are the names of those charter schools with successful programs?

    With your access to charter school testing data, perhaps the above questions would be easy for you to answer. I will see if I can dig out this information on my own and post it.

    Jim Mordecai

  • http://www.sudval.org James Wisch

    There is another way, & its not about test scores, its not about churning out fascist automatons for Chavis’s nazi future. We already have plenty of schools like Chavis’s. They’re called Military Schools. Here we see the extreme example – the cycle begun with NCLB has reached its amplitude. Over-reached, like most neo-conservative ideas.

    The fact is, some of his stuff works: looping, self contained classrooms, and an academic environment. However, those things can be fostered without resorting to totalitarianism. Democratic schools, wherein students drive curriculum and become self-regulated learners, better prepare students as future citizens of the republic. Blind ambition and allegiance, shown by so many Chavis (& Bush, incidentally) supporters, has run its course. Critical thought, freedom, and self-detirmination will rule the day.

    I invite you to look at this website:

    This is the school model for the 21st Century, and there are already many more of these schools than Chavis’s.

  • John

    “…Chavis’s Nazi future!?”


    I invite you to look at this website:

    and get a remedial sense of what it is you think
    you’re thinking!

    You know Jimmy, the immediate future might well have much more in common with Nazism than the immediate past.

  • Susan

    The thing I hate about blogging are the tangents. The comments begin to drfit off into stupidity after a while, thus I want to hear why “Jose” no longer expouses his mastery of data and statistics, especially for a kid regardless of his solid education at Skyline.

    By the way, everyone can read the Denial report on OUSD website under the Board of Education heading under the Board Agenda.

    See for yourself the brilliance of the AIPCS administration! I believe they violtaed a federal law and defintely violated education laws with the inept responses given by the current leaders.

    Be careful if your kids are there and they are liars.

  • Jim Mordecai


    I looked at the charter school test data for Oakland schools listed on the State Department of Education website and found the following:

    Seven schools would qualify for $1.8 million for last year’s test data. Four of the seven are the AIM schools.

    I looked at scores of 50% or higher for tests proficient or above in all subjects tested. All schools I qualifying having over 50% above proficient and or above had test data for Language Arts and Mathematics three had test data for science.

    Scores I looked at meeting the criteria of 50% of students testing proficient or above:

    American Indian Public Charter 87% (Lang.) 93% (Math)
    American Indian Public Charter II 76% (Lang.) 78% (Math)
    American Indian Public Charter High 92% (Lang.) 75% (Math) 84% (Science)
    Conservatory of VOCA… 60% (Lang.) 64% (Math.)
    North Oakland Community 74% (Lang.) 69% (Math.)
    Oakland Charter Academy 76% (Lang.) 78% (Math.)
    Oakland Charter High 93% (Lang.) 86% (Math.)

    If the chief criteria was scores and Measure N passed each school would receive about $257 thousand for their success charter school program to be spent by each charter school administration as it liked.

    Jose if you have different figures for 07-08 please correct me.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Jose, Former Student

    Mr. Mordecai,

    I am sorry, however, I am a college student with numerous classes and a job. Therefore, my comments are usually listed late.

    You can locate a great deal of information about any public school by googling “Star Test Results.” Once you locate the county, school district and school.

    You can look at the data by grade level, race, sex, etc. Good luck!

    What is this Measure N nonsense? I could care less about it. My parents pay enouth property tax already.

    Susan, you and the principal from the Indian school both seem to have some issues to me. I think you should contact him and both of you have a hug or slug fest.

  • Jim Mordecai


    You posted the following: “I reviewed the Star test at the Indian Charter school and the Asians have lower test scores than the Mexican and black students.”

    The information on how Asians scored is listed on the State Dept of Ed. Website because Asians are the plurality at the AIPC school and their enrollment is significant. The scores for all other ethnic groups is not provided as far as I can find. It seems if the ethnic group is not statistically significant, the STAR test data is not broken down by race, sex, etc. for the public to see.

    Posting an assertion is fine. But, if you do not find the time to provide the source of your assertion, there is no basis for believing what you claim is a fact.

    I read your assertion that you “reviewed the Star test at the American Indian school …” to mean that your reviewed a document with the Star test results for the American Indian school online.

    But, if you reviewed the Star test results literally at the American Indian school some questions arise.

    If the data was not public information, why did you have access?

    Who gave you access?

    And, you have not answered the question as to where you got the data that you said you reviewed in determining that various groups scored higher than Asians at the American Indian Public Charter 5-8 school.

    If the data is public information, why can’t you provide the source.

    How much time can it take out of a working, busy, college student’s schedule to answer a simple question as to the source of his assertion posted on this blog?

    Jim Mordecai

  • Katy Murphy

    Jim: I believe Jose is talking about the original American Indian Charter School. Its 2007-08 STAR scores do, in fact, list the scores for other ethnic groups. If you go to the below link and choose “American Indian Pub. Char” from the drop-down menu under District, you should see it:


    Because American Indian’s two middle schools are listed almost identically on the CDE Web site, however, you might be pulling up AIPCS II, which does not have the same statistically significant subgroups.

  • Jim Mordecai


    I apologize. I thought because I couldn’t find the information that you may have had some information nobody else had access.

    Katy is right about the reference and it was the same one you suggested in an earlier post.

    But, I kept overlooking the ethnic breakdown on test scores because I didn’t think to pull down the button refering to ethnic groups on the test results page.

    I was not selecting American Indian Public Charter school and finding insignificant scores.

    Again, Jose I apologize for my unwarranted assertion that you may have had some kind of unauthorized access to test data.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Jose, Former Student

    Mr. Mordecai,

    Thanks for the apology.

    Thanks to Ms. Murphy for providing you better directions to the CDE web sit. I have done a little background reading about Kmart and Walmart based on the refrence from Mr. Chavis a few days ago.

    I take it that he is comparing OUSD to Kmart. Neither one changed with the times to be competive for customers in the community. Both have finacial problems and are loosing customers.

    Walmart is growing because it adjusted with the times to meet the custormers needs of quality and good prices. The Indian school focuse on academics for their students and that is what they want and need for college.

    I know first hand that my academic skills are weak compared to most of my friends in class who attended schools from other parts of the state that demanded high academic standards. I have very good tutors who is working with me to catch up.

    In the end, the charter schools have to be approved by OUSD and they know the Indian school is better based on academic results. Why would OUSD approve a school that does a better job preparing student’s for college than they do?

    Kmart has no power over Walmart. But, if they did, Kmart would not approve Walmart to open any stores.

    I understand Mr. Mordecai and agree with you, who would want competition?

  • http://www.ponderthis.net Kemp

    If people were to reward success, it may become contagious. Can’t have that, says the OUSD.

    I went to Oakland Public Schools for 10 years (K-9). Thankfully I had some excellent individual teachers. The district as a whole was trash. Much of my success came in spite of the overall education environment I was a part of.

  • Rosa

    Hello I’ve been part of AIPCS and AIPHS since fall of 2003, the school had great leadership at that time; the education was the best for Oakland students. Now it’s diffrent the lack of expertise that the new director has is sad. Her way of RACIALLY profiling the Mexicans and African Americans just makes me SICK. AIPHS students are currently enrolled as full time students taking 15 credits each semester, which the maximum credits that a high school student can take are 8 credits, this can sound great to anyone, but what happens when the director decides to drop a student from his/or her college level course? Yes, they either get a W or a drop in their transcript which can reflect as a RED FLAG in the college or university application. They dont give that information to parents.

    The new administrator from AIPCS and AIPHS is forcing students to to out of classes for stupid reasons, example she might not like a students hair cut or she might find a student fixing his contact lense during class, guess what i8f you are able to view records of AIPHS that attend Merrit you will find that the majority of students that are forced to drop from a class are Mexicans or African Americans. Surprise dont be after all Cahvis is well known for his racist comments.

  • Anonymous

    I am currently attending AIPHS and I would like to express a side of this topic. I have attended this school since middle school and I had found it to be strict but fair until this year. What I have noticed, although I had previously tried to convince myself was not true, is that the staff, excluding some teachers, is racially profiling students. There was one occasion in which an African American student was kicked out his college classes because of a Mohawk haircut he had recently obtained. Not only that but he was numerously reffered to as “Mr.T” by the principal of the school because of his haircut and his African American heritage. In addition to his explusion from college course classes, he was also relegated from 11th grade to the 10th grade as a result of this “misconduct.” There have also been occasions in which Mexican students were kicked out of the college classes for fixing their contact lenses into their eyes. If one were to check the records of students dropped from the classes, one would be able to see that all the students dropped from the college courses were either Mexican or African American. Not surpriseingly, the only Caucasian student in the class is still in the college classes, despite her continuous disruption of the class, her constant dress code violations, and despite her disrespect toward the AIPHS staff. As minority student, I am concerned with this situation, as I could be targetted and excluded from my classes because of my cultural background. I would hate to see my hard work shoved down the drain because of a principal’s racial preferences. This fear is mutual among my classmates and I. We believe that this situation should be fixed. The principal of our school, of the school once devoted to exelence regardless a student’s skin color, should be an experienced, unbiased leader, not a prejudice mutilator of opportunity. As a precaution for any reprecutions, I have chosen to remain anonymous.

  • Susan

    Why doesnt anyone simply interview the students? Not while at the school site, but off grounds because I know them, they will bully kids.

  • Sharon

    How about Chavis for the new US Secretary of Education? He’d fix everything!!!

  • marcus foster

    One year after this story and I have just discovered this school.

    The school is almost definitely manipulating numbers and demographics. Chavis arrived, Indian students disappeared, Asian students arrived, test scores rose. If you go through the school’s SARC reports you’ll find numerous inconsistencies

    Whispers of inappropriate recruiting circulate all over internet message boards, and almost every time a parent is interviewed it is clear the family is very above average. AIPCS teaches to the test, and surprise, the test scores are high.

    BUT, I believe there is something to the AIPCS model. The schools are small, violence and bullying is nowhere (there’s no time for it), the school replaces staff that is not performing, kids are held accountable when they are tardy or don’t do their work. All of these are very good signs. I just hope that people don’t miss these points and come to the conclusion that Chavis racist remarks and the school’s poor facilities are what’s making the kids succeed.

  • anonymous

    I have been a student at AIPCS and AIPHS since the year 2003. I am sick, tired and angered by all this nonsense that these stupid people have been saying about my school. I’m a senior at the school and ever since I was a sixth grader I’ve done nothing but learn at this school. I’ve learned in the classroom, from my teachers, and from each and every classmate I’ve had. Moreover, I would like to comment on the comments of these people with slanderous tongues. Dr. Chavis is a great principal. He doesn’t have a racist attitude. He just wants to get us to not be another person who fits a stereotype. In my class, the mexicans and blacks are the one’s who participate most in class and do the best in all tests we take. In fact they are the one’s who make class discussions. Asians are quite and don’t talk as much, more importantly, they don’t ask any questions. Asking questions is important. Furthermore, I perform at the top of my class through hard work. This school is like America. You are given all the chances to succeed, if you fail to take advantage of those chances and don’t work hard, you’ll end up living under the 880 highway overpass on High St. This is a scene that is normal in this city. This school has given me the knowledge to succeed in the capitalist society we live in. Based on my 7 year journey at this school, I believe every school should be like American Indian.

  • Nancy

    Anonymous: In the end, beliefs are the only items that live forever…they won’t remember what was said, or what was done..Keep speaking up, it is the American way…

  • http://univision Jesus

    In my opinion AMERICAN INDIAN PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL is the best school in Oakland and doesn’t have any competitans…not even Oakland Charter Academy.

  • http://univision Anonymous

    I am a student at AIPCS since the year 2009. I am sick, tired and angered by all this nonsense that these people have been saying about my school. I’m a 7th grader at the school and ever since I was a 6th grader I’ve done nothing but learn at this school. I’ve learned in the classroom, from my teachers, and from each and every classmate I’ve had. Moreover, I would like to comment on the comments of these people with slanderous tongues. Dr. Chavis is a great principal. He doesn’t have a racist attitude. He just wants to get us to not be another person who fits a stereotype. In my class, everyone participates and does their best in all tests we take. Asking questions is important. Furthermore, I perform at the top of my class through hard work. This school is like America. You are given all the chances to succeed, if you fail to take advantage of those chances and don’t work hard, you’ll end up living under the 880 highway overpass on High St. This is a scene that is normal in this city. This school has given me the knowledge to succeed in the capitalist society we live in. Based on my year journey at this school, I believe every school should be like American Indian Public Charter School.

  • huh?

    Anyone else notice that comments #27 and #30 are similar to the point of suspicious? Do either of the anonymous posters want to comment on the apparent coaching?

  • Roberta Calac Whipple Martinez

    Hello name is Roberta Martinez
    I work at a charter school “at will” My parents attended “Indian schools” I believe in charter schools if they have good administration. I do not think this school that you are talking about in Oakland is any different then most school districts. Everything I have read, I have seen in major school districts, San Diego Unified, Sweetwater school district just to name a few.

    Roberta Martinez-
    Pomo / Modoc / Koncow / Pitriver /Yuki / Luiseno, Indian Tribe

  • Nextset

    All the whining about Chavis and the AIM school reminds me of what it was like when you have a “negro” school run by one of the tyrannical old school black administrators. Same whining about how in your face, not tolerant, “mean” and every other word for Alpha Male who gets results. Those schools made their kids tough enough to survive white colleges and grad schools back in the 1940-50s. Those that cut the mustard that is. The rest were ready to make it in military & industry. Not like the lot of black crybabies and spoiled students I typically see who can’t even keep from being run over in the roadway.

    The ghetto schools should all be run like AIM. With a Chavis in charge. This is what it takes to get the kids ready for the Brave New World.

  • works at Oakland School

    Number 30 is the same as 27 and says he has been in school since both 2003 and 2009. If he had been there since 2003, which I doubt, I would hope that his English would be better. “I am a student since 2009″ is how a person who speaks Spanish would say it. I would hope he has learned to speak English properly. Also if he is at the top of his class as he claims, then he should know it is ones, not one’s.” I too wonder who coached him or them, if indeed they are two people.