Tag Archives: Jay Mathews

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.

Fake Grades and Big Money: The KIPP “Pledges”

So I wrote about an alternative college admissions plan and apparently all anyone thinks I did was diss Asians. I mean, come on, that’s not all I did. Besides, I am not looking to dramatically reduce the Asian population at elite universities; whites and Asians (and some blacks and Hispanics) more interested in mastery than performance (that is, interested in content, not grades) will benefit equally. Eliminating grades from admissions decisions doesn’t hurt Asians much, but it goes a long way to discontinuing a tacit conspiracy between majority URM high schools (charters and comprehensives both) and universities to commit and accept grade fraud.

As an example: In the last year, the KIPP charter network inked partnerships with a number of public and private universities, committing the latter to “recruiting” a certain number of “KIPP graduates”, including scholarships .

I put “KIPP graduates” in quotes because neither of the articles linked makes it clear what graduates are to be recruited. Remember, to the extent that KIPP has been deemed successful (my own caveats here), the road stops at middle school. KIPP does have high schools, but they aren’t anything to get worked up about, and are rarely mentioned in the raves.

So who are the universities promising to recruit—KIPP high school graduates, or KIPP middle school graduates, when they finish high school some four years later? This seems a non-trivial point, but neither of the two stories makes the distinction. This memo of understanding between KIPP and Syracuse provides the necessary information:

So KIPP middle school graduates go to a comprehensive public high school, or another charter high school, and will be recruited by universities bound by the pledge.

How would those logistics work, exactly? Would these universities otherwise not go to these (non-KIPP) high schools to recruit and are only recruiting the KIPP alumni through KIPP networks, ignoring the other students at the same schools? Or would they otherwise recruit from these schools schools but are now committed to make a certain percentage of the recruits KIPP alumni, thus decreasing the chances for strong students that didn’t ever attend KIPP? Does either one of those options sound particularly fair to the other kids at those schools unlucky enough to be chosen by KIPP alumni? And shouldn’t the reporters find out which of those unappealing alternatives the universities have committed to?

Of course, KIPP high schools are exactly the sort of majority URM schools that commit grade fraud.

Take a look at KIPP’s report card, in which they publish some of their high schools’ average SAT scores:

School Average SAT Score/ACT Composite AP Test Rate AP Pass Rate % Matriculating
KIPP Houston 1426 80%* 68% 97%
KIPP Pride (NC) 1399 56% 18% 94%
KIPP Delta (Ark) 18 89% 7% 89%
KIPP Newark 19 42% 2% 96%

Houston’s almost 1500 average is relatively impressive, but only considering the demographic. (That is, the “No Excuses” school of thought will have to accept an excuse.) The rest are exceptionally low. Of course, that’s an average. My guess is that the range of scores for any one school is narrow, because otherwise KIPP high schools are turning out blacks and Hispanics who have excellent SAT scores and not mentioning it. Yeah, unlikely. And of course, in that scenario, they are also turning out far below average candidates, even for blacks and Hispanics, and those students would likely have been “counseled out” of KIPP long ago. So it’s likely the students’ SAT scores are all clustered fairly tightly.

So here is exactly what I mean when I talk about grade fraud. I suppose it’s possible that these schools are handing out only Cs, Ds, and Fs to go along with those mediocre SAT/ACT scores. But more likely, many students are getting As and Bs in AP classes when in fact they can barely break 470 on any section of the SAT and are only passing AP tests *if they are Hispanics taking the AP Spanish test. If they’d been going to a suburban school would have been flunking most classes and never been allowed near AP classes unless the school had swallowed the Jay Mathews Koolaid. But on paper, they look impressive, and have all sorts of classes on their transcripts that give them cover for admission, particularly for public universities. Of course, they’ll end up in remediation, but so what? KIPP gets bragging rights.

I don’t know if KIPP alumni who went to other, non-KIPP high schools are doing better. KIPP did release the college graduation data as part of their College Completion Report, but not the average SAT score. As I’ve said before, call me cynical, but I think they would have released the average SAT scores if they’d been well above average for blacks and Hispanics.

In their high schools, at least, KIPP schools are not turning out stellar candidates, and whatever they are managing to teach them isn’t translating to college admissions test scores normally worthy of entry to Duke, Brown, Georgtown and other elite universities who signed a pledge. But because KIPP is the rock star of the charter movement and many of their donors are connected alumni to these prestigious universities, doors open to KIPP alumni not because they are academically superior, but because of KIPP’s connections.

Is that how it’s supposed to work? A few low income black and Hispanic kids benefit not because they got a better education, not because they are, in fact, better educated than kids who attend comprehensive schools, but because KIPP’s cachet gives them pull with the right people?