Sunday, May 31, 2009

If They Open In Sacramento, I'll Consider Applying

Given their student body, the name American Indian Public Charter sounds like a misnomer. But their philosophy, and more importantly their results, speak for themselves:

Not many schools in California recruit teachers with language like this: "We are looking for hard working people who believe in free market capitalism. . . . Multicultural specialists, ultra liberal zealots and college-tainted oppression liberators need not apply."

That, it turns out, is just the beginning of the ways in which American Indian Public Charter and its two sibling schools spit in the eye of mainstream education. These small, no-frills, independent public schools in the hardscrabble flats of Oakland sometimes seem like creations of television's "Colbert Report." They mock liberal orthodoxy with such zeal that it can seem like a parody.

School administrators take pride in their record of frequently firing teachers they consider to be underperforming. Unions are embraced with the same warmth accorded "self-esteem experts, panhandlers, drug dealers and those snapping turtles who refuse to put forth their best effort," to quote the school's website.

That's the philosophy side of the house. Here are the results:

By standard measures, they are among the very best in California.

The Academic Performance Index, the central measuring tool for California schools, rates schools on a scale from zero to 1,000, based on standardized test scores. The state target is an API of 800. The statewide average for middle and high schools is below 750. For schools with mostly low-income students, it is around 650.

The oldest of the American Indian schools, the middle school known simply as American Indian Public Charter School, has an API of 967. Its two siblings -- American Indian Public Charter School II (also a middle school) and American Indian Public High School -- are not far behind.

Among the thousands of public schools in California, only four middle schools and three high schools score higher. None of them serves mostly underprivileged children.

And here's the demographic make-up:

At American Indian, the largest ethnic group is Asian, followed by Latinos and African Americans. Some of the schools' critics contend that high-scoring Asian Americans are driving the test scores, but blacks and Latinos do roughly as well -- in fact, better on some tests.
Well, it is Oakland. I found similar demographics at the Oakland Military Institute.

For those who don't think high test scores mean much, how about this little tidbit:

On Tuesday, American Indian's high school will graduate its first senior class. All 18 students plan to attend college in the fall, 10 at various UC campuses, one at MIT and one at Cornell.

It's a lengthy article, but well worth your time. The more I read about the school, the more it sounds like the mythical All-American High School I fantasize about founding when California creates a sound voucher program.


Elaine C. said...

I'd come teach at your mythical school, if you needed another math teacher. :P

The school definitely sounds interesting... I'm not sure I'd want to teach all the core subjects, though!

Chanman said...

You hiring history teachers???

Darren said...

All-American High will provide an a-g education, as well as vocational training. It'll be a great school!

mazenko said...

But if this charter is so effective, why the need for vouchers? Isn't open enrollment and charter options enough? Certainly, some kids want and need out of their neighborhood schools. However, just as many would prefer to maintain their neighborhood schools, as they probably moved into their neighborhood for their schools.

I like the idea of choice for these kids, though in such a small environment with significant numbers of a high performing minority, there is much greater chance that the overall environment lifts all kids. Certainly, if all public schools had the authority and ability to remove distractions and under-performing students, more of the neighborhood schools could resemble American Indian High.

All eighteen students enter college - that's good. If all exit in four years with a degree, then it will truly be a success. Is the school tracking that?

mazenko said...

Follow-up comment with citation mentioned on Joanne's site"

". . . American Indian attracts academically motivated students, relentlessly (and unapologetically) teaches to the test, wrings more seat time out of every school day, hires smart young teachers, demands near-perfect attendance, piles on the homework, refuses to promote struggling students to the next grade and keeps discipline so tight that there are no distractions or disruptions. Summer school is required."

"The schools now attract Asian, Hispanic, black and American Indian students. Critics say good students disportionately choose AIPC and are more likely to stick with the demanding program, which offers no electives or extra-curriculars."

These details are worth mentioning and debating before simply saying choice will fix the education system.

ns said...

In all fairness, their graduating class is 18 students. Not a huge class. So a 100% success rate for 18 kids doesn't really count as good as a 90% success rate for 390 kids (which was my graduating senior class).

So I'd hardly tout how well I'm doing if I'm really only working with 18 kids here.

But I love their conservative philosophy and adherence to capitalist free market principles!

maxutils said...

Any school can perform at a high level if it can pick its own students . . .the problem is, if all schools get to pick their own students, the state averages won't change. Hopefully, a sound voucher program would create more diversity in the educational experience (i.e., not everyone needs to be on a 4 year college track) and create enough buy in to make the majority of students teachable . . . THAT's where you're going to get your wholesale change. Otherwise, it'll just be the best teachers and the best students flocking to Darren's school.