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Ben Chavis’s new book: “Crazy like a fox”

By Katy Murphy
Thursday, July 23rd, 2009 at 3:54 pm in achievement gap, charter schools, test scores.

It’s not yet for sale, but I recently received a book written by the (officially) former director of American Indian Public Charter School, Ben Chavis. It’s titled, “Crazy like a fox: One principal’s triumph in the inner city.”

The book begins like this:

Before I became principal, people called American Indian Public Charter School the zoo. …

The students smoked cigarettes, fought, drank, and broke beer and liquor bottles on Magee Avenue, the road lining the school. There were old, dingy mattresses nearby where they had sex. A staff member allegedly sold drugs to the students, some of whom snuck into a tool shed on campus to smoke pot. Students threw water balloons off the roof and computers out the class windows.

The narrative bounces between Chavis’s Lumbee upbringing in North Carolina (Takeaway message: People in the Deep South, even some Klan members, are not as racist as some in the Bay Area might think), his musings on race and racial mixing, his educational philosophy and respect for No Child Left Behind, success stories of some of his former students — and, of course, how he salvaged the American Indian School, took away its drumming circles and instilled serious discipline and a laser-like focus on math and reading.

The teachers were strict, and I was “crazy,” as some refer to me. Crazy like a fox is the way I look at it. I behave aggressively, demand success, and keep the fools at bay, as it says in Proverbs in the Bible.

For all of the history he includes about American Indians, he doesn’t really address the fact that only four Native American students attended the two middle schools last year, according to the California Department of Education, compared to 22 in 2000-01 and 45 (nearly half of the school’s population) in 2001-02. He suggests that their numbers remained fairly constant during his tenure there (“If you look at the number of Indian students attending the school, it has basically stayed the same over the course of my years at the school”).

But the statistics I’ve seen show a steep drop in 2006-07.

I wonder where all of the American Indian students went.

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  • Jill B.

    His schools are mainly Chinese.

    Of course the numbers ar good. I dont negate that they did not gain any knowldege at the Indian school, but they certainly did not enter the schools as low struggling students. Taking Chinese students to Blue Ribbon status is alot easier than Latinos and African American students.

    By the way- that is a very dumb title for the book.

    Katy-do you know who the author is? Knowing him, there is a bias with the author. I hope this is the lastwe hear from this guy- he seems phony.

  • Nextset

    This sounds interesting. More info, Please!

  • http://friendsofdave.org Dave Johnston

    I’m not surprised to see the Native American population leave AIPC since it no longer has the “Culture before Achievement” mentality that the school had when he came. The school is still 98.9% poor students. He certainly didn’t import a bunch of rich white kids from the Oakland hills as some of his detractors seem to suggest.

    His level of grade-level proficiency for his lowest scoring subgroup, in his case Hispanic students, is nearly 80%. That’s well above most schools proficiency rate for their highest scoring group of students, usually white or Asian.

    While people may disagree with his methods, no one should try to refute the fact that Ben’s school of poor children is outperforming the best schools in his district and across the state. We need MORE principals like Ben.

    Dave

  • Nextset

    I think I want to get this book and read it. I’m beginning to think that Chavis was doing what I’ve always said works in education – getting rid of the culture of comfort the (usually white) liberals stick minority kids in. It seems he operated the schools to keep the students (relatively) uncomfortable compared to any other public school. I think people and children especially learn faster and better when they are not happy and comfortable (and spoken to sweetly). Of course, I went to Catholic Schools in the 60s so that’s what I grew up in.

    I even remember that curious policy of addressing/referring to the male children by their last names. Like Boot Camp – with Irish Nuns in black robes as the DIs.

    Amazing how fast everybody learned how to read, write and count.

    We were never treated as kids who had to be indulged and pampered. It does seem in hindsight we were treated like boot camp recruits right down to the marching in silence into the classrooms to the assigned seats. We were also told we were special because we were there and had to live up to the uniform (or else).

    We need to bring those days back – to the public schools.

    Maybe the products would be better able to maintain employment afterwards.

  • Katy Murphy

    Jill B. – I’ve written about Ben Chavis for the Trib (you can access the 2007 profile through a link in the above blog entry), so I know him in that context. Am I buddies with my sources and subjects? No.

  • turner

    I couldn’t have said it better myself, Nextset. You just hit the nail hard on its head.

    We pamper these kids too much. Now, I hear we are thinking of paying them to learn.

    What would those nuns think of our methods now?

    Turner

    PS Nextset…what happened to the brave new world?:-P

  • Katy Murphy

    Well, in a chapter titled “Free Market Capitalism in the Classroom,” Chavis writes about paying students with his own money (stacks of $1 bills) at the end of the year for perfect attendance.

    He also — and I saw this, when I was shadowing him two years ago — sometimes pays $3 to $5 to each student in a classroom who has done all of their homework and avoided detention.

    He writes: “I praise those students and tell them, `If you work hard in life, you’ll get the money. If feels good having the money in your pocket, doesn’t it?’”

  • Public School Teacher

    I’ve heard about this school and this principal and the work they’ve done to improve test scores. It is quite an accomplishment that they’ve raised test scores to an almost perfect API status. However, I’ve heard they teach to the test. I am not a testing advocate, so I am not impressed with that accomplishment. I do however applaud their efforts to improve the education of students of color. I just wonder if all of this could be accomplished without Chavis’ foul rhetoric?

  • Alumni Teacher

    Chavis is an indian who believes in capitalism. Just like white capitalists in early america, he ran all the indians off. He only lets the smart chinese students on his aicp reservation. I think he turned his back on his own people. He only wants to educate kids who are already smart. He only wants to educate the chinese. If you are an indian at aicp and Mr. Chavis offers you a blanket to keep warm, you better have your small pox vaxination or high test scores or you are in big trouble.

    Katy, where did all the indian students go? How did he get them all to leave? He says he never expells anyone, but I hear that he expelled many indian students who hurt his scores. Do you do investigative reporting about this?

  • Cranky Teacher

    Much ado about little. Any smart fascist with total power and the right to expel can run a tight middle school.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com Sharon

    I’ve heard that Ben Chavis had an income source independent from his work as a principal (property ownership) and that this was how he could pay his students for attendance, etc. On a recent tax return for the school, he only took $25K in salary. It’s too bad that all schools don’t have this situation to provide extra goodies.

    Chavis took over the failing school in 2001-02 and it only took him a short time to figure out how to maximize his school’s test scores with demographic engineering. Any serious analysis of the school’s “improvement” would consider the impact of these changes; only people with tunnel vision would deny their weight. Put together with additional sneaky-fox creaming (many local anecdotal reports), along with the school’s fixation on test prep, and about 90% of the test score changes can be accounted for. The remaining 10% of the improvement probably came from more legitimate practices like longer school hours, monetary rewards and strict discipline.

    This is not a true story about any sort of massive transformation. Chavis did NOT wrought drastic changes with the original types of students. If he had then he would deserve praise.

    Here’s the changing percentage of students who are American Indian or Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, Filipino, Hispanic or Latino, or African American, from 1996-97 to 2008-09: 100.0, 97.0, 93.8, 100.1, 97.0, 100, 98.7, 74.3, 55.4, 65.3, 51.1, 50.5, and 42.3.

    Here’s the changing percentage of students who are Asian or White: 0.0, 2.9, 6.2, 0.0, 2.9, 0.0, 1.2, 25.7, 44.6, 33.7, 22.4, 38.4, and 54.4.

    The school’s American Indian or Alaska Native percentage in 1996-97 was 100%. The most recent figure is 1.1%.

    In 2006-07, the school had an unusual spike in the number of students reporting “multiple or no response” – very likely due to manipulation. The spike appeared about the time questions were being raised about the profound demographic changes which were appearing. The percentage in this category had averaged 0.29 for the previous 10 years. In 2006-07 it jumped to 26.4%. In 2007-08 it fell to 11.1%. The most recent figure is 2.7%.

    Yes, Chavis has been a clever fox, but smart people have caught onto his tricks. Just read the most recent report by OUSD’s charter office denying his petition to open another school. http://www.ibabuzz.com/education/2008/10/30/denied-new-american-indian-charter-school/

  • New Teacher

    Katy,
    Where are the white students at this school?

  • Former Teacher

    the school admin marks all the bubbles having to do with demographics for the students. they can shift them any way they want, who will ever check?

  • Nextset

    I really like having the info on the demographics of Chavis’ school. I also am amused by the animosity towards him from our Educrats here. It’s probably deserved because he has as much use for them as they do for him. Like oil and water, they don’t mix.

    As far as I’m concerned any school producing academic or vocational results is good news regardless of the racial spoils. If he replaces low performing minorities with higher performing students of any race that’s OK. The point is he’s in the business of running a real school which is more than OUSD does. After you have real schools you can worry about having minority students ready willing and able to take a seat in the real school. I think if you build it some of them will come.

    Many urban minorities don’t fit in a real school and need alternative programming. The choice should be largly theirs. No such choice is allowed by OUSD and similar urban schools – they don’t run “real” schools at all, they exist to pacify their minority population with fake education (look no further than what happens when their products are admitted to UC Berkeley, etc.).

    If you live in Oakland you don’t have a Lowell High (SFUSD) or Piedmont High to apply to. Too bad. With the money OUSD spends, high functioning Oakland students should be able to go to a real school.

    I think we need more Educrats like Chavis. A Lot more.

    Education means taking your students out of their comfort zone. Chavis enjoys that (so do I). OUSD doesn’t. Good for him.

  • Former Teacher

    Nextset-
    You are absolutely right in the end of your post. Asian parents are thrilled that they can send their students to this school, because it is like a private school education without any b.s.
    I guess my problem is that Chavis claims he’s figured out a way to educate the “darkies” (his term) while the evidence and the successes he is basing this on are false.
    Now people are going to read this book and think he is a great man and is closing the dreaded achievement gap and will want to emulate his assumed successful model. The problem is – it’s based on lies.

  • BLT

    Are all of you familiar with Rafe Esquith?
    Rafe Esquith is an American teacher at Hobart Boulevard Elementary School, the second-largest elementary school in the United States, located in Los Angeles, California. A graduate of UCLA, Esquith began teaching in 1981. His teaching honors include the 1992 Disney National Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award, a Sigma Beta Delta Fellowship from Johns Hopkins University, Oprah Winfrey’s $100,000 Use Your Life Award, Parents Magazine’s As You Grow Award, National Medal of Arts, and Esquith was made an honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth.
    Esquith’s fifth-grade students consistently score in the top 5% to 10% of the country in standardized tests. Many of Esquith’s students voluntarily start class at 6:30 each morning, two hours before the rest of the school’s students. Most of his students come from immigrant Central American and Korean families and are learning English as a second language. They volunteer to come early, work through recess and stay as late as 6:00 pm, and also come to class during vacations and holidays.
    Each year the Hobart Shakespeareans, as Esquith’s students are known, perform one of Shakespeare’s plays. They have opened for the Royal Shakespeare Company, been hired by Sir Peter Hall to perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles and appeared at the Globe Theater in London.
    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rafe_Esquith
    Among Mr. Esquith’s most fervent critics are his fellow teacher and administrators at Hobart.
    As to the criticism about A.I.P.C. teachers teaching to the tests, I suspect they teach their students far beyond the level of the test, therefore assuring that their students will ace or nearly ace any tests. Chavis has no use for “educratic” road blockers.

  • Nextset

    Former Teacher: It seems to me that the current crop of teachers are opposed to any high control & discipline program used on the black students. So we part ways. Such tactics are essential to educating blacks and any other demographic with similar features and performance. (IQ thing again??)

    Those who are able to perform well and graduate the initial programs can move beyond high control into environment set for more self direction – such as prep high schools & UC Berkeley.

    Leftist teachers don’t get this… They think all people are the same and they can run all their classes like Scandinavia. Congress thought that when they changed welfare policy with The Great Society. Look what happened to the ghetto.

  • Former Teacher

    Nextset-
    I totally agree with you. Here’s my point again: your last post is exactly the ideology behind AIPCS. The issue here is that it’s not working as a model for the big picture education. Yes we need to be tougher on black and Latino students and push them like a Catholic school, but AIPCS is chasing test scores not education. Those few that get through the program are strong enough to survive on their own in a University. The program worked for them. (1st graduating class was about 15? someone correct me on this)
    My concern is with the fame and the claims made by the ego Chavis – all the attention lavished on this school is undeserved. After all, if you look at Skyline I am sure you would also find at least 15 black and Latino students who will go to Universities and have self control.

  • Let’s Get Real

    Contrary to your belief, Nextset, most teachers would appreciate a district-wide policy of strict and consistent discipline. Many of us are aware of the differences between schools where such policies exist and and where they do not.

    Please stop blaming teachers for the educational policies that are destroying public schools. Our suggestions are very often ignored or put down on the school site and district level because of district, state, or federally mandated school policies.

    The politically correct idea of tolerance of bad behavior from children of color (in schools and elsewhere) needs to be eradicated. I think we agree on this. I am doing my part to advocate for a focus on establishing a positive school climate in all OUSD schools this coming school year. I hope that the Oakland community steps up and supports such a movement
    which would certainly help move our institutions out of the realm of “fake” schools.

    As for Mr. Chavis, I appreciate Sharon’s statistics and I agree with her and Former Teacher. Mr. Chavis is in the very least misleading the public if he implies in his book that he raised success rates for the same demographic of students.

    Also, from what I’ve heard, Mr. Chavis went to extremes and unnecessarily demeaned his students in the name of discipline. I believe a school climate can improve and discipline can be enforced without using name-calling, shunning, and other such methods.

  • Alice

    Good for Ben, I am looking forward to reading the book.

  • Amy

    Why are people criticizing Chinese students for coming to this school? Why do Chinese parents like their kids to come to this school?

    My friend and I would praise about this school to all nationalities, NOT JUST CHINESE. After we tell them about the school, alot of parents let the students pick the schools they want to attend and the parents would agree with it. Chinese parents like the teachers to be strict (only when Dr. Chavis was Principle), now they are overkilling his philosophy.

    After the family hears what we tell them about the school, the parents would give the kids their choice of freedom to decide where to attend. Unlike Chinese parents, the parents make the decision because they would rather see their kids going in the right direction for their education. All kids attending any middle schools don’t know what the future is like, they can do drugs, alcohol, fight, makeup, knives, guns, comparing brand name clothing, and etc…

    This school teaches them the real work force. You have to stay in school in order to get a good job and what do you need to do in order to get a good job, a good education, but do students realize that when they’re a teenager, I don’t think so.

    My daughter likes this school because if she didn’t understand something, she could always stay after school for tutoring (free of charge).

  • Wong

    After hearing about this school, my daughter is more serious about her education than ever before. She is never late to class and can take care of herself.

    Before all she ever did was eat, play games, watch tv and go on the internet because the school she attended did not give her any homework.

    We need more of these school but with Dr. Chavis’ way of disciplining the students and not OVERKILLING THE SYSTEM.

    I hope that other schools will follow Dr. Chavis’ philosophy and make more students more successful, then more school will also have test scores as high as AIPCS.

    No matter how good of a job you do, people will always be criticizing you one way or another. Everything does not always go the way you want it to go. You have no idea how many people are supporting you.

  • Jill B.

    Katy- I was not referring to you as the author- I was asking who wrote the book?

    As for all the comments- taliking about young irls breasts, fighting (physically) with people who disagree with him,paying people off, calling immigration on Latinos, and collecting test scores for entrance- if all that sounds good to the people of Oakland, then he should have been the city’s new Superintendent.

  • Katy Murphy

    The author is Ben Chavis. That’s why I thought you were asking me if I knew him.

  • Mr. G

    Former Teacher,

    There were 20 kids in the 10th grade the first year of the high school’s existence (2006, I think). There graduation program listed 17 graduates this year. At graduation, they passed out sweatshirts to the graduates with their future colleges’ names on them. 4 to Berkeley, 1 to MIT, 1 to Cornell, several other UC’s, all 17 got into a 4 year college. Say what you want, but if all Oakland schools could show results like that, we’d have nothing to complain about on this blog.

    As for the Indian population, how do their percentages compare to the rest of Oakland’s? How many Indian students are in Oakland compared to when Chavis took over?

    Whether you love Chavis or you hate him, this book is probably good news. The publicity will enable Chavis to open schools in other parts of the country. If you agree with what he does, you’ll be happy to see more of his schools open in other cities. If you don’t agree with what he does, you’ll be happy to see him working far away from Oakland.

  • BLT

    If I lived in Oakland, I would do everything in my power to get my children in AIPCS. A child’s future is a terrible thing to waste.

  • Rosanne Winston

    I’ve attended Oakland Public Schools in the 80’s and the 90’s, from elementary through high school. It’s been about 20 years now and the education in OUSD has not changed. Now a days, people have options as far as charter schools or district schools. However, I support all good schools. Not all charter schools are great.
    My son currently attends AIPCS and we love it. AIPCS has been accused of many things, but I don’t care what the “haters” and the critics say. My son has improved his study skills and I notice improvement with his writing, grammar, spelling, math, etc. How can you say students are not learning? The test do not discriminate, it helps reassure us that we are doing the right thing and that our students are improving. People are the ones that discriminate.
    I grew up poor and am living through poverty. I am trying to make ends meet as a single working parent. I refuse to allow my son to be another minority living in poverty. AIPCS should be replicated and in many years down the road it will help eliminate poverty by educating the poor and minority students. It is raising the bar of high expectations on poor-minority on a level that OUSD has not done.
    You should congratulate Mr. Chavis for founding an amazing model that provides great results. You should give the teachers a pat on the back for working their butts off. You should shake the students hand and say “good work.”

  • alex

    Good for Dr. Chavis. AIPCS brought a lot of change into the kid’s life. This school has a lot of highly trained teachers that help the kids excel in their education. The school also help my daughter understand that you must be responsible and know what is right and wrong. My child’s teacher not only teach her disciplinary skill but also uses homeword to challenge them. I think that this school has provide a good change and experience for the kids.

  • ProStudent

    Because so many people think that the only way to educate black children is by using tyrannical means of discipline and shame/embarrassment tactics to make sure they test well . . . I homeschool my children. That is not a healthy model for children and it didn’t/doesn’t work for the neediest of children.

  • BLT

    ProStudent, why is home schooling an unhealthy approach to learning? If your children are engaging with other children in social settings and you are challenging them to be critical thinkers, then you are on the right path. Learning should be joy-filled.

  • Nextset

    ProStudent: I think you incorrectly equate high-control education with tyrannical education. How old are you? A younger person would react to high control concepts differently than I.

    I have no problem with the concept – regardless of race – that education of children should at least start out with less autonomy and graduate the student to more responsibility and flexibility for self as their development and deportment warrants.

    And here is the (perhaps) controversy – It’s clear to me that black children as a group need far more control than, say, Asian children. Why is not the issue – at this point in time and place there is no question that the difference is there and requires different handling. I believe that once control is firmly established which will be different for different groups and places, as the student matures, grows up or agrees to become an adult, control can be relaxed. However the death penalty remains on the books.

    And I’m no tyrant. I do have plans for young people that don’t include going to prison or dying of AIDS or becoming everybody/anybody’s victim. That is not the case of our public educators who know quite well what the stats are running and contribute to the mortality table of black kids.

    Being “nice” doesn’t pay, giving them the choices doesn’t work, and letting “The Lord” handle it (as one mother who allowed her “Reverend” husband at her daughter for 11 years told me) doesn’t cut it either. This is a tough world that is getting tougher and it’s the well trained and well raised kids that are going to survive this Brave New World.

    I think Black Kids are safer (my word) with Chavis and educators like him than with nice guy white liberals (or any other colors) who let them down by not educating them at all. School should not be Romper Room.

  • Nextset

    BLT: Why would you ever think that learning should be “joy filled”? It’s school not an opium den. True learning is sometimes frustrating, painful, embarrassing, exhilariating, scary and a lot of things. “Joy filled” it is not – not if you are learning something.

    Playing around is “joy filled”. False praise is “joy filled”. False accomplishment is joy filled. We have too much of that in our public schools.

    The bulk of the public school products I see have wasted years in school learning little or nothing. They are deficient compared to the private and church school students. They have false and inflated opinions of themselves, their worth, their competence and their prospects. That’s what your “joy filled” gets them.

  • BLT

    Nextset, you are on target. I’m in a teacher credentialing program. Recently, one of my instructors, a very forceful black woman who has years of experience teaching in urban schools, made this observation about teaching black children at the elementary level: “Don’t give black kids this choice”: “Johnny, will you please join us and sit down now?” She recommends this: “Johnny, sit down, now.”

  • Debora

    Nextset: Would you clarify something? If I have a child in a class (Latina girl) with incredible self-discipline, who does her homework, is working at an advanced level and who has excellent work habits, then she should have more freedom in the same classroom and children who have not developed those same skills. Is that correct?

  • Curious Teacher

    A colleague of mine once told me that while attending a professional development workshop, the presenter stated that students of color are taught to complete group work or collaborative projects, while Asian and Caucasian students are taught by direct instruction-lecture, discussion. The way I am phrasing this is not to infer any type of learning difference; the presenter noticed that this was the trend in classrooms. What are people’s thoughts on this issue?

  • Nextset

    Debora: I’d defer to the teacher on how he runs his classroom. Children who are higher functioning typically have prerequisites done that allow them to attend different schools/programs/classes. In the higher functioning schools/programs/classes controls are different and not on high control. Students may have a greater degree of autonomy in selecting and completing assignments and tests, where to sit, attendance, whatever. Even then there are lines that must not be crossed. I don’t think I have seen a mixture of high control and relaxed control within the same classroom. If seating is assigned, would you have some students change seats at will? If there is uniform dress, would you have some students wear other clothes at will?

    However if a class mixes advanced students with entry level students presumably an advanced student may be reading ahead while the others struggle.

    If I were the advanced student’s family I’d want him/her reassigned to an advanced class with peers who could provide a competitive challenge.

    Curious: I will infer learning difference for you. Different groups are: Different. How the differences play out may be affected by place, time, local norms, group norms. I’d like to hear the opinions and experiences of the crowd here.

  • Debora

    Nextset: In Oakland it is not allowed for the advanced students to be together in one classroom or one school unless there are average and below average students as well. If your student is advanced, working at one or more grade levels above, they are not allowed to advance to the next grade. Most teachers will tell you they will not allow students to advance into the next grade level of material because it will make it more difficult for the teacher the following year. There is supposed to be differentiation in the classroom, and it does happen in one out of four or one out of five classrooms.

    They will not even pretest. If your child is in third grade working at a fifth grade level, they are given the same spelling words, reading books, math problems and homework as students in the same class working at the first grade level. That is just how it works in Oakland.

    To be fair, I kind of set you up on the question because I know the answer to how it is done. All students are treated relatively the same whether they behave, follow the rules, have their work done and plan time well or they are disruptive, behind in their work, have attention issues or cannot or are will not follow directions.

    To allow students who behave differently to be treated differently is an ISM – racism, sexism, favoritism, classism, elitism, etc. etc. etc. We would not want to hurt a child’s self esteem by telling them that they do not have the privileges as another child who is obeying the rules. It would hurt their feelings, or embarrass them.

    You have not been in an Oakland public elementary school in a long time.

  • New Teacher

    Katy,

    What do u think happened to all the Native American students at AICS?

  • Katy Murphy

    I honestly don’t know. The school changed so dramatically with Chavis that I wouldn’t be surprised if many students who started under the old administration left. That wouldn’t explain the entire shift, though. I can look into it.

  • Rosanne Winston

    Katy:

    Have you looked at the population of Indian students in Oakland as a whole? Maybe the numbers at AIPCS didn’t drop because of Chavis. Maybe it dropped because the numbers dropped in the city as a whole.

    Do you have data or stats on wheter or not the numbers dropped in Oakland Unified School district or the City of Oakland?

    Are Indians integrating into the Latino/Hispanic population?

    I thought this would be interesting to know.

  • New Teacher

    Katy,

    Have you asked Chavis about the Native American students?

  • Oakland Teacher

    I took a look at the enrollment of students identified as Native American at Carl Munck Elementary School, a school with a historically high native population. The American Indian Charter was originally proposed by Carl Munck parents who felt that Montera was not meeting their children’s needs. Students are clustered at that particular school (Munck) because of the CDC, which originally served only that population.

    2007-8 29 students
    2006-7 30 students
    2005-6 29 students
    2004-5 34 students
    2003-4 42 students
    2002-3 42 students

    While the numbers have certainly dropped, they do not demonstrate the population as having left Oakland (or the neighborhood as the schools are near each other). There are still far more Native American Students who COULD attend AIPCS, who do NOT. I think the answer to why the families are choosing other schools would be best answered by one of the those families, but those familiar with AIPCS or Chavis’ leadership style certainly have hypotheses. I do know that when the native kids were disciplined, some of them had their hair cut by Chavis – a very serious thing to do in their culture.

  • Nextset

    Sounds like we need to put Chavis in charge of OUSD.

  • Bill Sampson

    Having the unique perspective of working ath the state level with legislators offices and CDE- I can tell yu that someone like Mr. Chavis is too efficient for the system.

    You all must understand that the Ca education system recieves mor emoney than most thrird world GDP’s (over 40 Billion). Education in CA gets twice as mush than healthcare, four times as much than social services- and what thi smeans is that the system is made to be complicated to hide the influences and powergrabs.

    Someone like Chavis would be dragged through the caiptal, and tarred so to speak. Simply put- he is too good.

    This state is at risk of collapse and all the special interest groups such as associations, publishers, unions, parent groups etc who pull the levers that will eventually bring it down.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Discipline and joy are not mutually exclusive, Nextset.

    No doubt, the students at Chavis’ school are feeling joy when they grow and succeed academically.

    I love learning, as do many other humans. Even when, actually mostly when, it is difficult.

    And opium does not create joy, it is a narcotic which creates a simulation of bliss.

    Personally, I have no problem with alternative schools like Chavis’ — nobody is making the parents enroll their children. As long as actual abuse is avoided, fine.

    However, what is annoying is how these very particular “miracle” schools are portrayed as models which can be replicated everywhere. That is what folks are challenging — how was this “miracle” done?

    BLT brings up another one: Rafe Esquith in LA. Classic example of a miracle which would be impossible to replicate on a large scale: The guy comes into a public school and is given middle-school children who happen to be selected as GATE (gifted) and are mostly the children of Korean (Confucian) immigrants coming from a culture and country with rigid and demanding educational history/system. Then the teacher pours his every waking hour into teaching, even taking on second and third jobs to pay for field trips, gifts for students, etc., then parlays rising celebrity to raise even more money from Hollywood stars to fund more trips — including 30-day college tours! This in turn attracts students/parents, more stars, more money, etc.

    In exchange for his Herculean labors, Esquith has gained international fame and adoration, not to mention some book royalties and film deals.

    His fellows don’t oppose his success, they question his self-aggrandizing books (in which he attacks his peers relentlessly), as well as the frightening control and over-involvement he has in the lives of his young charges. Esquith’s books, as perhaps Chavez’s will be, could be used as prototype portraits of a megalomaniac using his energy for good rather than evil.

    Unfortunately, this is the model which is being promoted by many: The creation of an army of SuperTeachers willing to sacrifice everything for the cause.

    We have a lot of crime in Oakland — why don’t folks ask police officers to work overtime for free, or to take troubled youth on college tours?

  • Nextset

    Cranky: We don’t take “Troubled Youth” on college tours because for the most part they are not fit for college. They don’t belong in college, they don’t want to be “in college” and they are typically into short term immediate gratification.

    And Emergency Service workers do not work for free because they are not criminals – slavery is only legal for penal servitude. You see, free people do not owe other people anything. Including a crust of bread or air to breathe. This is a principle no longer taught in public schools where the products are taught that other people owe them something.

    As far as discipline and joy not being mutually exclusive… Wrong Again. But I’m sure you believe what you are teaching. The kind of joy practiced at OUSD is unearned superlatives happily heaped on the black folks like a narcotic to keep them fat, dumb and happy. In time the “chillun” get pushed more and more towards euphoria. Over what, who knows. It sure isn’t the SAT scores.

    There is also joy in accomplishment, the real kind not the false praise handed out in many of the Urban School Districts across the US. You want to see accomplishment, go look at the Asians at UC Berkeley. Joyful bunch, aren’t they?? This kind of joy is quiet. Probably because thay are educated enough to be able to read the tea leaves and understand what they have ahead of them.

    As far as your reference to Opium, the junkies I’ve met are pretty satisfied on a fresh hit. To each his own. I believe OUSD needs to make serious and steady changes as to how their kids carry themselves and behave in and out of school so that they do better in the Brave New World. We can start by taking back control and bolstering the authority of the classroom teachers. Maybe all assigned seating to start, little things in succession.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Oh, you are tiresome, Nextset. Of course that was a joke about cops taking delinquents around the Ivy League, and you know it.

    The point was that the model of Esquith is one where a teacher not only worked many many many free hours, he also poured in thousands of his and doners dollars into efforts to teach his public school students, yet BLT and other hoist him up as a model. And if teacher unions point out that work should be paid? They are attacking the children!

    Strawman arguments, always always always, that’s all you give. Someone says joy, you say they mean pleasure at receiving “unearned superlatives.” Then you turn around and admit joy in accomplishment, which is exactly what I said — it is as if you are purposefully deaf to understanding.

    Frankly, your inability to actually engage in meaningful conversation may be an indictment of the kind of education you tout. Or maybe not, maybe that’s just you.

    Now is when you express shock that I’m angry and make unfounded claims about what I believe and how I teach. Queue the tape.

  • TJ

    RE: “I’ve heard they teach to the test. I am not a testing advocate, so I am not impressed with that accomplishment.” Well, I am an advocate of teaching to the test since the stuff on the test is the essential things (uh, like math, English, reading) they must know to succeed. All the multiculturalism and other indoctrination can go straight into the toilet. Congrats to Dr. Chavis for taking the BS out of education.

  • Nextset

    Cranky: I will care about your opinion when I see people wanting to hire your products. Form all I read from you you are no different than a shop foreman in a Soviet Auto factory. Well, it’s later than you think.

    Do you do anything for your charges?

  • Booklady

    Re: ” Taking Chinese students to Blue Ribbon status is alot easier than Latinos and African American students.”

    What a racist statement! All students can achieve and I mean all given the opportunity, excellent teachers, and an administrator who understands instruction. I have taught in a mostly African American school district with students who are exceptionally smart but they lose focus and interest because they have poor teachers who are more concerned about being the Savior versus teaching. In addition, most of the teachers where intimidated by students who knew more than they do about the subject matter they were teaching i.e Mathematics. So please, with the racist crap!