David Whitman’s "Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism"
Knowing the degree to which demographic engineering has played a large role in the "success" of one of the six schools which Whitman profiled, I left the information for him in a comment under Pedro Noguera’s response. I also thought I'd try to reach him through Chester Finn, President of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which also happens to be the publisher of the book. Here's the email I just sent:
Dear Mr. Finn,
I would like to provide you with simple, yet important, factual information about one of the schools featured in David Whitman's book, "Sweating the Small Stuff:
and the New Paternalism." The school is the American Indian Public Charter School in Inner-City Schools . It has received a great deal of acclaim for producing high test scores and was a 2006 Oakland National Blue Ribbon . School
I am hoping you will be able to forward this message to David Whitman. I've been unable to locate his email address.
Please take a look at the changing percentage of students who belong in one of the following subgroups: American Indian or Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, Filipino, Hispanic or Latino, or African American. This is for the 13 school years from 1996-97 to 2008-09. All figures are from DataQuest at the California Department of Education’s website.
· 1996-97 = 100.0
· 1997-98 = 97.0
· 1998-99 = 93.8
· 1999-00 = 100.1
· 2000-01 = 97.0
· 2001-02 = 100
· 2002-03 = 98.7
· 2003-04 = 74.3
· 2004-05 = 55.4
· 2005-06 = 65.3
· 2006-07 = 51.1
· 2007-08 = 50.5
· 2008-09 = 42.3
The school’s American Indian or Alaska Native percentage in 1996-97 was 100%. This year it is 1.1%.
Now look at the changing percentage of the school’s students who are either Asian or White.
· 1996-97 = 0.0
· 1997-98 = 2.9
· 1998-99 = 6.2
· 1999-00 = 0.0
· 2000-01 = 2.9
· 2001-02 = 0.0
· 2002-03 = 1.2
· 2003-04 = 25.7
· 2004-05 = 44.6
· 2005-06 = 33.7
· 2006-07 = 22.4
· 2007-08 = 38.4
· 2008-09 = 54.4*
Ben Chavis took over the failing school in 2001-02. It only took him a short time to figure out how to maximize his school’s test scores. One of his primary methods was simply to change the demographics.
In 2006-07, the school had an unusual spike in the number of students reporting “multiple or no response.” The spike appeared about the time questions were being raised about the school being demographically engineered by Chavis. The percentage 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%. This year, it is 2.7%. In a school which prizes itself for having an extreme sense of order, such an unusual sequence reflects an attempt to confuse the facts.
Chavis resigned as principal of AIPCS at the end of the 2006-07 school year, but he continues to be the director of the charter organization which manages three similar schools in
, all with similar demographics. Oakland
By the way, when the figures of his three American Indian Model schools are combined, their average enrollment of students w/disabilities was 1.3% in 2007-08. The district average was 10%. Their combined enrollment of English Learners in was 3% in 2007-08. The district average for that subgroup was 30%.
How many other charter schools are using similar tactics? Since few people are delving into it, who would know?
Some proponents, like David Whitman, apparently aren't willing to question, or investigate, some very basic information (available to anyone w/internet access) before they perpetuate the myth of an outstanding success. Other proponents, like George Will who gushed over Chavis and the AIPCS last year, aren't willing to publicly acknowledge this information when it is presented to them. I sent this simple report to Will last year but never received a response. I've now sent this information to David Brooks, but I don’t expect to hear back from him either.
My family and I have lived 1/2 mile from this school since before it was formed. I drive by it nearly every day. Although some of its practices are admirable, such as longer instructional time for students and the stressing of school order, I also know for certain that the school engages in questionable strategies, such as large amounts of time spent on non-condoned state-test practicing and the cherry-picking of students.
I happen to have a deep understanding of the qualities found in many of the low-income Asian families in my community, and see how Chavis' grab for low-income Asian students sets him up for easy success. These children have been my daughters' classmates for many years; I also worked with these families for seven years when I was a Parent Coordinator at a traditional public middle school. If you would ever like me to explain the familial characteristics which contribute to the tremendous academic achievement of this set of children to you, I would be happy to do so.
Since charter schools will continue to declare that they are using "innovative" practices, it is essential that the practices which are legitimate are differentiated from those which are not. Until this happens regularly and is made utterly transparent, solutions for the achievement gap will be obscured.
, Oakland CA
*All of whom were Asian. White enrollment has always been low, or altogether absent.