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). Continue Reading


State auditors find misappropriation of funds, evidence of fraud and conflict of interest by charter school director

photo by D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group staff

There’s much to say about this report, but it’s been a long day, and the school board meeting is still going on. So for now, what I have for you is a link to the Tribune story about the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team’s final report on alleged financial abuses by American Indian Model schools’ founder, Ben Chavis.

The case is being forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for review.

Sheila Jordan, Alameda County’s superintendent, has recommended that the Oakland school board “continue to assess the viability of the schools in question.”



Five Oakland schools win Title I achievement awards

Some good news for your spring break (or when you return to reality):

The California Department of Education has announced the winners of the Title I Academic Achievement Award, a distinction for schools with rising test scores that receive funding for low-income children.

All five Alameda County winners were public schools in Oakland: American Indian Public Charter School II (which will remain open, after all), Burckhalter Elementary, Cleveland Elementary, Lighthouse Community Charter High and Lincoln Elementary. Two Contra Costa County schools also won — Highland Elementary in West Contra Costa Unified and Los Medanos Elementary in Pittsburg Unified.

Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of public instruction, had this to say about the 117 winners: “The progress being made at these schools, which serve our neediest students, should serve as a beacon of hope for California. At a time of fiscal crisis and economic uncertainty, they continue to improve, building a brighter future for their students.”

Eligibility criteria (from CDE): The school must demonstrate that all students are making significant progress toward proficiency on California’s academic content standards. Additionally, the school’s socioeconomically disadvantaged students must have doubled the achievement targets set for them for two consecutive years.

You can find more information about the award here.



Will Oakland’s top-scoring school be closed?

BEN CHAVISDuring a 6 5:30 p.m. special meeting Wednesday night, the Oakland school board considers the fate of American Indian Public Charter School II, a middle school in downtown Oakland with a near-perfect Academic Performance Index of 990.

American Indian Public Charter School II, one of three schools run by American Indian Model Schools, is up for its 5-year charter renewal. At the same time, state auditors are investigating allegations of financial fraud in the school’s charter management organization. The Oakland school district’s charter schools office has recommended that the board reject the American Indian renewal application.

You can find our story here, and the district’s report here, along with a progress report from the auditors from the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team.

The staff report cites numerous reasons for its conclusion, from compliance issues (teacher certification and occupancy permits) to a pending investigation into allegations of fraud, conflicts of interest and deliberate misappropriation of funds.

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Rumors (and denials) of a rogue charter school opening next week

American Indian Public Charter School

Sometimes when I write about the American Indian Public Charter School I feel like I’ve entered an alternative reality. This is one of those times.

For that reason, I can’t tell you definitively whether an unauthorized elementary charter school will open on American Indian’s downtown campus on Halloween, as rumored — though it’s looking unlikely. I’ll just share the information I’ve collected so far.

Evidence that suggests a school affiliated with American Indian is (or at least was) slated to open two months into the school year:

– I called the receptionist at the school last week, told her I was a news reporter, and asked if American Indian was opening a new elementary school in October, as I had heard. She said, “Yes it is.”

– An OUSD mother who attended a recent informational meeting at American Indian said parents were told that a new elementary school would indeed open on Oct. 31. Continue Reading


Oakland school wins National Blue Ribbon award


Here’s some more good news: Peralta Elementary School in Rockridge is one of 21 public and private schools in California — and 305 in the United States — to be awarded the 2011 National Blue Ribbon from the United States Department of Education.

The school scored a 937 out of 1,000 points on the state’s Academic Performance Index this year. Its African-American students, who made up about 16 percent of the enrollment in 2010-11 (down from 66 percent percent in 2005-06), had an average API of 857. Latino students, about 12 percent of the students, had an API of 939, higher than the school average.

Peralta is the fourth public school in Oakland (and the second non-charter school) to be honored for academic excellence. Previous winners: Lincoln Elementary in Chinatown (2010), American Indian Public Charter School in the Laurel District (2007), Oakland Charter Academy in Fruitvale (2008).

Other Bay Area schools to earn this distinction in 2011 were James Leitch Elementary School in Fremont; Ulloa Elementary in San Francisco and Ruskin Elementary in San Jose.

You can find a list of winners here.


Announcing … the Title I awards

This just in from the California Department of Education:

Academic achievement awards for 209 schools that serve large numbers of poor children and are closing the achievement gap. (Criteria explained here.) There are fourteen awardees in Oakland — 10 district elementary schools, four charter schools — and two in Berkeley. They were selected from the 6,000-plus schools statewide that participate in the Title I program for low-income students.

Last year, there were just six in Oakland and one in Berkeley to earn this distinction.

Here’s the list of East Bay awardees:

Jefferson Elementary
Washington Elementary

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Who’s attending CA’s elite public schools?

I finally got around to sorting state-level test score data, something I’ve been meaning to do since the Academic Performance Index release last month. (Boy, is it harder than it should be. Those mismatched column headers…)

Hillcrest Elementary/Tribune file photoFive of Oakland’s schools are up in the top 100 — roughly 1 percent of all public schools in California — when sorted by API: the three American Indian Model charter schools, Montclair and Hillcrest.

The American Indian Public Charter School in East Oakland’s Laurel District was the highest-performing middle school in the state, with an API of 988. (Not including schools with K-8 or 6-12 grade configurations, whose middle school scores aren’t broken out here.)

Here are some more data points:

  • Only nine schools in the top 100 educate a “significant” number of low-income students, as defined by NCLB (which means they need to report the scores of that group of kids); three of those nine are the American Indian Model schools.
  • None of the top 100 schools had aggregate scores for black students or special needs students, meaning their numbers are too small. And while Latino children make up nearly half of California’s public school population, their scores are included at just eight of the 100 schools. Continue Reading

The latest high school exit exam results


Talk about a high-stakes test. Unless you pass both sections of the California High School Exit Exam — English and math — you don’t get a high school diploma.

Students take the exam for the first time as 10th-graders (the test includes some Algebra I concepts and English standards through grade 10) and they may retake it several times in their junior and senior years. Last year, 100 percent of the students in Piedmont Unified passed both subjects as 10th-graders, and the same was true this year at the American Indian Public High School.

I put together a spreadsheet with four pages that breaks down the first-time pass rates by district and race/ethnicity and highlights changes (by district in Alameda and Contra Costa counties) from last year to this year.

Tab 4 — titled “OUSD” —  lists Oakland’s high schools, including charters,  in alphabetical order and then, below, sorts them from highest to lowest 10th-grade pass rates in each subject. The charter schools are definitely clustered at the top.

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Native American leader, former Oakland activist, dies at 64

Wilma MankillerWilma Mankiller, the first woman to be elected chief of a major American Indian tribe — the Cherokee Nation — was once a Bay Area resident and a strong advocate for Native American children in Oakland’s public schools. She died Tuesday in Oklahoma at age 64.

In our library, I found a small envelope stamped “MANKILLER, WILMA/ INDIAN LEADER, OAK.”  Inside were several articles, including a Tribune story from January 9, 1977. Susan Shoemaker, then an education writer for the newspaper, reported that Mankiller and other Native Americans “believe the school district simply does not care about their children.”

“Oakland public school services are just inadequate for American Indian students,” Mankiller was quoted as saying.

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