American Indian Public Charter School in Oakland
- In 2000, American Indian Public Charter School in Oakland, now a racially diverse, 200-student middle school with a high percentage of low-income students, was in danger of having its charter revoked due to poor academic performance. Ben Chavis was named principal, and since then the school's Academic Performance Index Score (API) has risen from 436 to more than 800, which is the highest increase of any middle school in California and the best score of any public school in Oakland. Chavis' unorthodox methods and bluntly stated views about the state of education have attracted national attention and ruffled plenty of feathers. Examiner editor Zoran Basich spoke with him this week.
Your school in Oakland defies a lot of educational trends. What has happened in public school education? In the 1960s the Republicans said, "Let's hand education over to the Democrats and let them have a run at it." The Democrats and I'm a Democrat then went to the extreme: "We're going to have schools without walls, let's experiment, let's try all these things, let's try self-esteem courses." They said, "What kids really need is a strong identity. They need culture." But I say before they have all that nonsense, they need to read. Reading is culture. Writing is culture. So you can see, all of a sudden it went downhill.
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