American Indian Public Charters: What Word Are You Forgetting, People?

Please, spare the world any more bleats about the dreadful injustice committed by revoking American Indian Public Charter High School’s charter.

Andrew Coulson:

In a 2011 study, I found that AIM is the highest-performing charter school network in the state, by a wide margin. That is after controlling for student characteristics and schoolwide peer effects.

Low-income black and Hispanic AIM students actually outperform the statewide averages for wealthier whites and Asians. AIM even outperforms Lowell, one of San Francisco’s most respected and academically selective high schools.

AIM’s overwhelmingly low-income and minority graduates regularly attend colleges such as UC Berkeley, Stanford and MIT. The college acceptance rate is 100 percent.

Adam Emerson, Gadfly:

The school’s success and continued promise ought to transcend the failings of its leadership. Therefore, the American Indian board ought to set aside its pettiness and hubris and appeal the revocation so that the Bay Area’s poorest and most underserved children can have a shot at a school that has stood for years at the top of California’s performance rankings.

John Stossel:

Chavis’ schools take kids from the poorest neighborhoods.

So what does the education Blob decide to do? Shut his schools down.

Jay Mathews:

The students enroll in Advanced Placement courses in the ninth grade and eventually take more of those college-level classes and exams per student than any high school in the Washington area. In their white shirts and dark slacks and skirts, the 243 students bustle around their little campus. Eighty-one percent of them are from low-income families, but their AP test-passing rate of 41 percent is higher than any D.C. school except Wilson and the School Without Walls, which have mostly middle-class students.

[buried several paragraphs below:]

Oakland should sue Chavis if it has a case, but it should also celebrate the American Indian schools and encourage their growth. They were named in honor of Native Americans but have few such students. The enrollment is mostly Asian, with significant numbers of Hispanics and blacks, all of them wanting better schools.

Well, at least Jay mentions the ethnicity issue. Everyone else wailing about the school–a school in Oakland—deliberately leaves off the fact that the school is upwards of 60% Asian, and has become increasingly Asian every year. (Cite)

But not just Asian, dear reader. Chinese!!

Of the 106 Asians tested at the high school in 2012, the school has one lonely Korean and Indian kid (each, not a hybrid), ten Vietnamese, and NINETY FIVE Chinese.

Say “Oakland” and most people think “black”. Now, that association is getting closer to wrong every year—Hispanics, white gentrifiers and Asians have been chipping away at the black majority population in the city for a decade or more. Still, African Americans are Oakland’s largest population by a whisker.

Any reasonable person who isn’t automatically skeptical of any education miracle would assume from the aggravated bleats that the AIPCS kids achieving these amazing test scores were predominantly black and Hispanic—and hey, maybe even one or two American Indians might be in the mix, too. Do NOT pretend otherwise, since that pretense is precisely what irritates me and I’m on a rant.

How many blacks are taught at AIPCS? 19. In most categories, not enough students test to get an actual score report (which is withheld for 10 students or less) . How many Hispanics? 39—in most categories, barely enough to hit the 10 student qualifier. (So much for Jay’s “significant numbers”.)

So this school doing God’s work raising poverty-stricken kids out of illiteracy in a plurality-black city isn’t teaching enough blacks to register on the radar. It’s an Asian school, dammit.

Do AIPCSH blacks and Hispanics do better than the average for California whites? Well, for the groups large enough to break the 10-student reporting basement, yes.

But Ed, you say, if they are doing good work helping blacks and Hispanics achieve, why are you so annoyed? Sure, the school’s advocates are, er, letting people make bogus assumptions about the school’s population. But no matter how few blacks and Hispanics actually go to a school famous for helping “poverty-stricken kids in Oakland”, the ones who do go are getting a great education that helps them achieve far more than they would otherwise.

Ah, sez I, that brings up another point. From the earliest days of the schools’ success, many have whispered or even alleged openly that the schools require test scores for admissions, in open violation of the law.

Of course the school is skimming. I’m stunned one of the school’s many detractors hasn’t pointed out that American Indian Public Charter High School doesn’t offer algebra.

So the school is just randomly accepting all the students who walk in the door and they all just happen to have passed algebra already?

In the entire state, economically disadvantaged or not, 68% more freshmen take algebra than take geometry. Black disadvantaged freshmen are over three times more likely to be taking algebra than geometry; Hispanic disadvantaged freshmen over twice as likely. And for all these years, AIPCHS has just gotten lucky that everyone they accepted, in an open door policy without a lottery, has taken algebra already?

Anyone who believes that is ignorant. Certainly, some charters openly brag that they start all freshmen in geometry, pretending that the weaker kids just need a little extra tutoring to catch up , but their test scores will clearly demonstrate reality (“Waiting for Superman”‘s Summit Preparatory Charter may tell the world all freshmen take geometry, but state tests show clearly that all but a few are taking algebra—when it tried to actually teach and test all kids in geometry, the results were dismal.)

Benjamin Chavis and his successors have not only been cherrypicking by ethnicity, but also in some way setting extremely high test score basements, which violates the law the charter is supposed to live by.

Hell, given the other egregious financial improprieties the management has committed on a routine basis, only a fool would bet against the possibility of yearly erasure parties held just to ice the cake of those scores.

Education reformers are very Malcolm X about charter school results. So I know that Coulson, Stossel and the rest of the bleaters , faced with the accusation that they have egregiously and probably willfully misrepresented AIPC’s achievement, will say something to the effect of “So what? Who cares if they skimming the cream? Who cares if their attrition rate is 60-70%? The bright kids of Oakland need to be saved from the hell of their local schools. Whatever works. Besides, what kind of racist are you to imply that a mostly Asian school would automatically have higher test scores?”

As to the first, we can argue all day as to whether it’s appropriate to use public dollars to allow a few lucky kids (bright or not) to escape the pandemonium created not by lousy administrators and incompetent teachers but the critical mass of low ability kids bored and frustrated by an education that has no meaning for them. In this case, however, the bleaters are not arguing openly for a haven to escape the legal requirements imposed by public school law, but rather for school they say offers educational excellence. But AIPCS achieved that excellence not by teaching low ability kids to succeed, but by skimming based on ability and ethnicity—and then, of course, bragged about their outstanding outcomes while slamming the local public schools.

Don’t lie about the school’s achievements. I find it very hard to believe that Andrew Coulson did not knowingly omit the fact, in both his op ed and his study, that the kids are mostly Asian in the hopes that everyone would think Chavis et al were achieving miracles with black and Hispanic kids. (Stossel, on the other hand, might just be that ignorant. He rarely cares about the finer details.)

As to the second, oh, please. Give it a rest.

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27 responses to “American Indian Public Charters: What Word Are You Forgetting, People?

  • Seguine

    “we can argue all day as to whether it’s appropriate to use public dollars to allow a few lucky kids to escape the pandemonium created not by lousy administrators and incompetent teachers but the critical mass of low ability kids bored and frustrated by an education that has no meaning for them.”

    Maybe someone will argue all day over this question, but for me the answer is pretty straightforward: hell yeah we should spend public dollars to enable an elite among low-income students to escape intolerably bad schools.

    Charter policies, dishonest though they may be (the public discussion is impossible to have at this juncture) are essentially a means of tracking, and benefit those who may actually be able to do something with more advanced opportunities.

    Set aside the problem of what education for low-ability kids should look like–it’s a separate issue. How will condemning capable kids to slog through pandemonium solve it?

    • educationrealist

      hell yeah we should spend public dollars to enable an elite among low-income students to escape intolerably bad schools.

      That wasn’t the question I asked. Hell, I’m in favor of that, too.

      You’re taking the Malcolm X position–by any means necessary. No problem if they lie, no problem if they break the law, who cares about anything if we can get kids out of the hell of public schools?

      Well, public schools are hell BECAUSE no one will openly admit it’s the kids. SO let’s continue the lie, you are saying, let’s even go further and lie in saying that the charters are doing a great job when in fact all they’re doing is benefiting from the ability to ignore laws that public schools are required to follow. Who cares if the kids benefiting are randomly selected? Some good is being done.

      It’s a stupid way to do things. If we acknowledged that the problem with public schools are not bad teachers but the laws that they are REQUIRED to follow, we could then track sensibly and stop giving a miracle to kids on a random basis. This approach would scale better and hey! It wouldn’t be a lie based on hypocrisies.

  • SC

    It doesn’t matter what race they are. The reports say that 81% of them are from low income families. The journos should be a bit more honest and say what race the children are, but they could still make a point about ‘disadvantaged’ children succeeding by pointing out that while the school is 61% Asian, it is 81% low income, and the big news is that a school that has overwhelmingly low income students is succeeding. So I would say that this is a triumph for the leftists, that low income children CAN do as well or better than middle/higher income children if given the right school resources.

    I agree with the above poster. Any low income / low social class kid who shows a well above average IQ, ambitiousness, or willingness to work hard and behave themselves should be put into charter schools and away from the thuggish/violent kids. This would bring about real social mobility for low income / low social class kids who deserve it.

    • educationrealist

      It doesn’t matter what race they are.

      You’re an idiot. Of course it matters what race they are.

      The day a school takes a hundred even *selected* black and Hispanic kids of ANY income and gets those kind of results, it’s news.

      Whites and Asians, it’s a small case of skimming a few top poor kids.

      • triclops

        Ironic that you call this poster an idiot and then totally elide his point. S/He even anticipated/countered your objection and you still ignored it. I hope you don’t teach reading comprehension.
        Unless you really do think educational outcomes are based entirely on race and not myriad factors including SEC…

      • educationrealist

        Do you mean SES, not SEC? And I suspect educational outcomes are based almost entirely on cognitive ability, and race is a better predictor (but not cause) of cognitive ability than SES.

      • Roger Sweeny

        I’d be interested to hear you expand on your statement, “race is a better predictor (but not cause) of cognitive ability than SES.”

        In particular, what you mean by “predictor (but not cause)” and why you think “race is a better predictor … of cognitive ability than SES.” I know you’ve touched on the second before but I thought it might be nice to have it all in one place.

      • educationrealist

        If SES was a better predictor than race, then poor whites wouldn’t outscore non-poor blacks. So if you have a group of low income people, and a group of high income people, and you were to guess which had the highest test scores, you would go with the high income group. But if you were told that the low income people were all white, and the high income group were all black, then you should go with the group of whites. Hence race trumps income.

    • Roger Sweeny

      I suspect that many of the 81% come from families which immigrated fairly recently. The families are poor now but many won’t be in twenty years.

      • educationrealist

        I’m becoming increasingly skeptical of the term “low income asians”, particularly Chinese and Koreans. That is, I think they have family money back home. At one of the SAT academies that I work for, it’s well known that several kids who won need-based full-rides to schools have parents who drive lexuses. They are deliberately gaming the “low income” strategy. I don’t think that this is happening all the time, and not with Vietnamese or Indians, but I’m less certain it’s not a fairly common gambit among Chinese and Koreans. No evidence other than anecdotal.

      • triclops

        and I’m sure all those Chinese and Korean families move to Oakland.

  • Seguine

    “You’re taking the Malcolm X position–by any means necessary. No problem if they lie, no problem if they break the law, who cares about anything if we can get kids out of the hell of public schools?”

    I am taking the Seguine position: by any means possible. And yes, absolutely, I am more concerned about any individual kid being denied educational opportunities he demonstrably could make use of than I am about perpetuating institutions.

    I don’t buy the argument (made by some, not sure whether you endorse it) that the only way to save the Titanic is to make sure any saints, babies or Nobel prize laureates who happen to be on board don’t get into life boats. Bullshit. The ship is going down. We either have the will to attempt to rescue the doomed, or we don’t.

    So by all means, attack the lying, attack the hypocrisy–go to town. But don’t suggest that no good is being done, or if it is, it’s the wrong good and public dollars shouldn’t support it.

    Here’s an alternative position: pulling the most capable kids out of lousy (or even mediocre) environments narrows the task before educators of less gifted students. Once they are forced to focus on what these kids need, there’s a chance public policy about how they should be educated, and their needs paid for, will shift.

    But as you know, that’s a political problem as much as an educational one.

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    • triclops

      So you think AIPCH should be closed? My understanding is that the problem was nepotism…not something that leads to school closures. Going after Chavis personally makes more sense.

  • Hattie

    I strongly suspect that there’s more going on here than mere cowardice, laziness and duplicity.

    Yes, realistic change would be haaaaaard, political cryptonite and – in the case of federal laws on inclusivity – draw the wrath of the families of special ed pupils everywhere. But that’s not all.

    My problem with the charter school boosters is that I think it’s in their best interests to not improve the system as a whole. It’s like Big Businesses and the tax laws. Yes, they could make the case that they’re unfair and counterproductive, but they don’t. Instead, they let them stand, and weasel out of them. That means they can avoid them, but let their less prepared and wiley competitors run face first into a tax wall.

    In the same way, I think the charter school boosters are okay with the crappy educational system, as long as there are ways for wiley, prepared parents to game it and get their own precious flowers out. No, there is no chance of equality of outcome, ever, and their own kids will probably do…okay. But why risk letting some ghetto/barrio/trailer trash child get one over your own child? Let them wallow, import some more cheap labour, and game the system to get your own out and protect them – at taxpayers’ expense.

    • Seguine

      Oh no, not the wiley prepared parents of precious flowers who are content no perpetuate injustice by consigning the children of Taxpayers to ghettos/barios/trailers while their own children get out. Why, it’s just the same thing as capitalism run amok.

      Education in the US would be so much more equitable if all children were simply shipped off to Camden, NJ from the time they were ready for kindergarten until they dropped out of high school.

    • Pincher Martin

      Hattie,

      “My problem with the charter school boosters is that I think it’s in their best interests to not improve the system as a whole. It’s like Big Businesses and the tax laws. Yes, they could make the case that they’re unfair and counterproductive, but they don’t. Instead, they let them stand, and weasel out of them. That means they can avoid them, but let their less prepared and wiley competitors run face first into a tax wall.”

      I have nothing against charter schools, but I think you’re on to something.

      As long as charter schools give an out for many concerned parents, they have no incentive to look hard at the broader problems in education or seek meaningful reform. Why would they? As long as their kids are in good schools, they have little need to.

      On the other hand, charter schools do provide a means of tracking, but one which separates kids by schools rather than classes. It’s highly inefficient, but if I was a parent, I would certainly prefer it over the alternative of fighting for tracking in my local public school district.

      • Hattie

        “On the other hand, charter schools do provide a means of tracking, but one which separates kids by schools rather than classes. It’s highly inefficient, but if I was a parent, I would certainly prefer it over the alternative of fighting for tracking in my local public school district.”

        If I’m reading ER correctly, tracking as you see it is not happening. They’re being – at best – disingenuous about their results and who/what they’re teaching.

    • triclops

      Charter school boosters actually realize how little power they have over the massive bureaucracy that is public education, and seek to carve out small enclaves that are less pathetic. It is the “all or nothing” approach to improving public education that makes no sense to me, especially considering how much consistent failure such attempts have left in their wake. How long will new educational fads fail, increases in spending fail, and larger numbers of administration fail before you give up on the “all or nothing” approach to fixing public education?

  • Pincher Martin

    “If I’m reading ER correctly, tracking as you see it is not happening. They’re being – at best – disingenuous about their results and who/what they’re teaching.”

    When ER writes about charters “skimming” the creme from the local public schools, that’s a form of tracking.

    But it’s highly inefficient.

  • Thea Nelson

    What is with the indignation of parents trying to scam the system and getting the best education possible for their child? The reality is while one tries to change the system a child is growing up and missing a decent education.
    The system can experiment all they want on children since there is a steady supply of new subjects. Whether getting a child into a private school, charter school or home schooling most parents want their child to have the best chance possible to learn. Who in the world thinks parents should sacrifice their children on the altar of equality for the poor and lip service for the rich.

    • Hattie

      The indignation is the use of public money (homeschooling and going private are done with private money – totally different) and their dishonesty about who and what they’re teaching and the results they’re able to attain.

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  • surfer

    1. There is a very reasonable argument in terms of practicality that skimming (and getting some kids saved) is better than screwing them over.

    2. You have no proof that stopping skimming and screwing them all will eventually result in outrage so that things get fixed.

    3. The presence and existence of “double standards” in terms of skimming, discipline allowed etc. is actually helpful as a LIVING MODEL of how different policies or groupings could benefit the schools. Let the lie GROW. It actually helps your case!

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