Jorge Lopez, a former school dropout who directs the high-performing Oakland Charter Academy (shown here at his middle school in Fruitvale), has been appointed to the California Board of Education.
Lopez is not your typical educrat, if there is such a thing. He’s all about the hard work and humilation approach to schooling, a la Ben Chavis — at least, when it comes to educating poor kids. He says this method would never fly in a more affluent community, nor would it be necessary; in fact, he went the Montessori route for his own preschool-age children.
When I visited the charter academy last fall, Lopez readily acknowledged that the school played mind games with its students in order to motivate them — and that he imposed a daily detention quota on at least one of his teachers (A former teacher had told me that he sometimes had to arbitrarily pick on kids to meet his quota. Lopez confirmed it was true).
The Oakland Charter Academy is not for everyone, but the kids there do seem to be learning. A lot. The instruction is very math-focused, and includes extra class time (after school, summer, some Saturdays) for kids who need to catch up. I wrote about the school and its skeptics after it won a National Blue Ribbon award last fall from the U.S. Department of Education for its huge test score gains. (See story here.)
This month, the Oakland Charter Academy was named one of two charter schools of the year by the California Charter Schools Association.
I should note, to all of you charter-phobes, that Lopez is not pro-charter school, even though he runs one. In fact, he likes to point out that there are too many bad ones in Oakland, in his opinion, and that they should close. At any rate, Jack O’Connell and the California Business for Education Excellence are happy about Lopez’s appointment. They have sent out releases applauding the new addition to the BOE.
In the mood for a good read? A couple of years ago, the East Bay Express ran a colorful cover story on Lopez, titled “The Method of King Jorge.”
photo by D. Ross Cameron/Tribune staff