Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Ben Chavis / American Indian Public Charter School saga continues

Ben Chavis’s crooked charter school reign is finally being exposed. A preliminary investigation into his management has found evidence of fraud and multiple violations of state laws. As a result, the Oakland Unified Office of Charter Schools is recommending a denial for the renewal of one of Chavis’s three Oakland American Indian Model charter schools. The school board is scheduled to vote tomorrow night (April 4, 2012).

Chavis has been held up as a hero by Washington Post columnist George Will and rabid charter school advocate Whitney Tilson. He's been promoted by the Los Angeles Times, John Stossel on 20/20, the Cato Institute and many others. Chavis was on a Education Nation panel called "About our Children" with Michelle Rhee and Ben Austin. Watch him raging on MSNBC here.

Then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called Chavis’s work an “education miracle.” The National Review described Chavis as “undeniably one of the country’s finest educators.” Chavis’s school was one of six "no excuses"-type schools featured in a book written by David Whitman and promoted by Chester Finn, “Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism.” Chavis even wrote his own book, “Crazy Like a Fox: One Principal's Triumph in the Inner City.

Chavis was brought to Oakland in 2001 to take over American Indian Public Charter School which was created in 1996 with the mission of improving the dismal performance of Native Americans in the Oakland schools. He imposed a combination of strict discipline, long school hours, compliance requirements, cherry-picked students – along with driving out the unwanted ones – to produce exceptionally high state test scores. Low income or not, only the most compliant students, and their highly compliant parents, are willing to stick around at this school.

Along the way, the student population at the school changed drastically – a feat of demographic engineering (see graph below). And as far as Chavis improving the performance of Oakland's Native American students goes, that never happened. In 2000-01, the year before Chavis took control, the school was 64.7% American Indian. By 2010-11, only six of 493 students (1.2%) claimed American Indian as their primary ancestry.

There are three American Indian Model Schools in Oakland:
1. American Indian Public Charter School, the original school established in 1996 (AIPCS, Code 6113807)
2. American Indian Public High School, opened in 2006 (AIPHS, Code 0111856)
3. American Indian Public Charter School II, opened in 2007 (AIPCS II, Code 0114363)

All three schools have a majority of Asian student enrollment, ranging from 55% at the original school, to 62% at the high school, to 87% at AIPCS II. Oakland Unified is 13% Asian.

Other things to know:
  • At AIPHS, super high state test scores have produced good, but not comparably exceptional, SAT scores.
  • Chavis's application for a fourth charter school was denied in October 2008 for problems relating to enrollment processes, recruitment, special education, and arts education.
  • In 2010, Jorge Lopez, executive director of the Oakland Charter Academy schools (two other OUSD charter schools) and a close associate of Ben Chavis, was tapped by then-Governor Schwarzenegger to sit on the California State Board of Education. Before confirmation, Lopez suddenly resigned when questioning started about his “interlocking series of business arrangements involving his schools” and Chavis.
  • In an attempt to hold Ben Chavis accountable for his practices, a teacher concerned about conflict of interest filmed the goings-on at a AIPCS board meeting and posted it on YouTube. She wrote:
After a successful 2.5 year stint at AIPCS, I felt like I needed to quit. When Dr. Chavis was elected to an executive position in the summer of '11, several other strong staff members and teachers quit or were fired. If no one is around to question him, he can remain in control of the finances... Thanks for watching; there is no other outlet for accountability...
  • John Glover, who worked as a teacher, executive director, and chief operating officer at AIPCS for six years, broke away in 2011 to start his own charter management organization in order to open a charter school in San Jose, CA (Alpha Public Schools).  
  • An attempt by the American Indian Model group to start a charter school in Tucson failed in January 2012. The Arizona State Board for Charter Schools wrote, “...for the reason that the applicant is not sufficiently qualified to operate a charter school due to the financial and operational performance of the applicant in operating other charter schools [i.e. those in Oakland]." Listen to the fascinating interview with AIM applicants during this ASBCS meeting, see Item N-1.
Stay tuned.

Updated 4/5/2012: The OUSD school board voted to renew the schools charter. Per Katy Murphy: "Alice Spearman, Noel Gallo, Chris Dobbins and Jumoke Hinton-Hodge approved Spearman's motion to keep the school open on the condition that it tighten its financial controls and provide training to its governing board (returning to the OUSD board in two years to prove that it had done so); David Kakishiba, Jody London and Gary Yee voted against it."

Be sure to note the dip in Asian enrollment in 2006-07 with a simultaneous spike in the enrollment of students categorized as "Multiple or No Response." This was around the time that complaints were being made about Chavis's demographic engineering, and perhaps suggests that the school was making an attempt to disguise its true enrollment figures.


Anonymous said...

American Indian Public Charter School is a good school, but the staff that they had before I decided to leave was despicable. A young girl tried to commit suicide in the winter of 2010, two days before winter break started. I, as well as teachers, saw something was wrong. The teachers did nothing to help. When our mandarin class started,she asked to go to the bathroom. I asked our teacher if I could go with her, she gave me permission to go. The girl was barely capable to walk,I practically carried her to the bathroom. When we got to the office to sign in so she could go into the bathroom, the secretary saw that she had lip gloss in her hand.She, realizing she was not well starts to say, "...you have lip gloss in your hand give it to me.Are you stupid?" I took her to the bathroom. Only one teacher helped me to take her to the office.I left her at the office at 12:00pm. As we had physical education,I saw the police, ambulance, and the fire department arrive, 2:00pm.I went to the office to inform the principal that she had taken 29 of something.The principal at that instant started to hold me responsible.She asked me," What would you have done if she died?" The day after, she goes into my classroom e embarrassing me in front the whole class.She told the class these words,"...took her nosy ass into my office just because she saw the police, she took her ass in to be nosy." I told my mom what had happened. My mother went in to talk to her.My mom told her everything i told her. I told her word for word of what the principal had told me, the principal denied everything, saying that I had lied in what i old my mother When I tried explaining to the principal that I had left my classmate at 12:00 in her office, and that help arrived at 2:00, that she was the one that had waited 2 hours to call the paramedics. She replied to me by saying, "...um are you already telling me something that i know?"My mom decided me to transfer me to another charter school. When I went to pick up my transcripts, they did not want to hand them to me.My family went to try to get them twice. After those two times, my transcripts were given to me. I spent five years and a half in that school.I actually liked it, but I did not appreciate the fact of how I, a fifteen year old girl at the time, was taking care of a girl that had taken pills, after at least six teachers had seen her.

nikto said...

How do you spell,"crime?"


Roxane J. Talisen said...

My kids attend the American Indian Public Charter School (AIPCS). The school regularly delivers among the highest test scores in California. My two kids love the school and are getting a great education. Also, the physical education program is really excellent. The kids get lots of homework and they have to follow the rules. I would not want it any other way. My kids love their teachers. No doubt about it, our kids are college bound thanks to the American Indian Public Charter school. Another huge plus associated with AIPCS is that it's safe. There is no violence and no bullying. That's a huge plus for any school in Oakland.