Jim Clark: A look at American Indian Public Charter High School
May 1, 2013
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — When told that Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was an inveterate drunk Abraham Lincoln reportedly replied: "Find out what he's drinking so I can get some for my other generals."
The public education hierarchy may be facing a similar paradox with the recent announcement that American Indian Public Charter High School of Oakland, CA occupies the top spot in the nation in the Washington Post's annual list of America's most challenging high schools (by the way the top Nevada school was Coral Academy Charter School of Reno; Incline High came in 4th statewide).
At the same time the Oakland School Board has voted to revoke the school's charter as well as those of two other American Indian charter schools.
Originally chartered in 1996 to improve Native Americans' educational achievement, the school offered classes in Native American culture, bead-making and drumming intersticed with smoking breaks.
Test scores were abysmal. In 2001, a real American Indian, Dr. Ben Chavis, came across the Bay from San Francisco State University to become principal of the school. American Indian's academic performance index was the worst in Oakland
Chavis instituted a program of academic rigor assigning 2 hours of daily homework to all students, concentrating on science, technology, math and English courses. By 2006 the student makeup had changed to mostly Hispanic, Asian and African American and the school had the eighth highest academic performance index in California … 988 out of a possible 1,000. In 2007 Chavis started a second campus and also chartered American Indian Public High School. The first high school graduating class matriculated in 2009. 100 percent of American Indian graduates went on to colleges such as Cornell, MIT and UC Berkeley.
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Discipline at American Indian Charter School is also rigorous. Infractions trigger detention. A second offense brings an extra hour of detention and four hours of Saturday school. The Center for Educational Freedom in Washington DC says that American Indian: "… instills in the school environment those cultural characteristics necessary for academic success that are missing in the home."
A teacher recruiting statement offers further insight into Chavis' educational management style: "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."
Chavis is unapologetic about his opinions on how liberal thinkers hurt minority students. "They have no standards for minorities," he said. "They're like, you know, let's let them get freedom. Let's understand their learning style. Let's give them multiculturalism. And no discipline, no structure, no game plan. So they're destroying us. They've destroyed a whole generation. They've wiped out many more people than the (Ku Klux) Klan has."
Chavis has been praised by such national columnists as George Will and Cato Institute's Andrew Coulson for being just as intolerant of unions as drug dealers and priding himself on firing underperforming teachers.
Well you can imagine how this has been received by the ultra-liberal Oakland School District. Not surprisingly in April the school board voted 4-3 to pull the schools' charters alleging some sort of financial misconduct by Chavis. By then Chavis had retired from the school but still exercises moral suasion over policy.
He has recently been in Las Vegas with conservative activist Chuck Muth who has announced that he and Chavis plan to apply for a Nevada charter for a school to be named Mount Ronald Reagan Charter School.
So if you hear howls of anguish coming from the Clark County education establishment remember the words of Abe Lincoln. We could probably use a lot more of what Dr. Chavis is selling.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates and has served on the Washoe County & Nevada State GOP Central Committees; he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.