I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The "Other" Ben Chavis - Reformy Maniac

I want to start this with a hat tip to some terrific bloggers who were nice enough to drop by here and leave some great information for this post:
You should check them out - they're all on my blogroll at the left.

I honestly had not heard of Ben Chavis (no, not that Ben Chavis, this Ben Chavis), before his disastrous and embarrassing appearance in MSNBC's A Stronger Nation. But, thanks to my rockin' commenters, let me fill you in a little more on this maniac.

Chavis has been wreaking havoc in the Bay Area for a while, which is why I guess I didn't know him. For those of us in the NYC area, I'd almost say he is Northern California's equivalent of Eva Moskowitz: a shameless self-promoter with an abrasive style that corporate reformers love but makes the rest of us crazy.

Chavis, however, brings the crazy in a way Moskowitz can only dream of:
One morning in March, Mills College education professor Sabrina Zirkel brought some graduate students to Chavis' famed charter school. She chose the school in part because its outstanding test scores and harsh disciplinary practices strike at the heart of a national debate on education reform. 
Zirkel said she expected to see some "tough talk." She didn't expect Chavis to drive one of her graduate students, a 25-year-old African-American man, out of the school after he showed up 15 minutes late. 
"He pushed his chest into my shoulder and begun to usher me out of the building, shouting profanities and insults in my face. He called me a '(expletive) minority punk" at least five times and shouted, 'I'm going to kick your ass' at least seven times.' 
"He said ... I was a 'worthless piece of (expletive) people have been making excuses for' all of my life," was the account Unity Lewis gave in a complaint letter, echoed by others in his group. 
Chavis acknowledges he swore at Lewis and that he called him a "disgrace" to his race. He did so, he said, because Lewis "acted like a fool," called Chavis a "homey" and initially refused to leave the school grounds. 
Chavis was hardly chastened by the scathing complaints. In fact, he said, he showed Lewis' letter to his students, and they made fun of its spelling and grammatical errors. 
He hooted. "They think he's a loser," he said. 
Chavis had little reason to worry that the Mills incident would cause him any problems. The school district, and his own board, had received allegations of belligerent behavior for years.
The same article reports he calls students "darkies." That itself is enough for me to wonder why this guy is ever allowed near students.

Oh, and just to reiterate: MSNBC put him on their Stronger Nation panel in lieu of ANY working teachers, and the host, Tamron Hall, described Chavis as a "genius."

Two charters, both cited as models that traditional schools should emulate, must include a warped version of the First Amendment in their civics curriculum. The schools, American Indian Model Schools in Oakland and Green Dot Public Schools' Locke High School in Los Angeles, are so committed to indoctrinating students with their promoters' economic ideology that they require students to recite pro-capitalist pledges or prove that they believe in the economics of Adam Smith. 
California's social studies guidelines do not even mention capitalism, although the economics section could have been written by Milton Friedman. 
At Oakland's American Indian Public Charter School, the school's director, John P. Glover, refuses to confirm that his students are required to recite a pledge to capitalism, yet that the kids recited such a statement - to be "productive members in a free-market capitalist society" - was reported by Los Angeles Times staff writer Mitchell Landsberg in May 2009 after he visited the school.
Talk about a Randian wet dream.

I'm left wondering why any one of these Wall Street charter cheerleaders would want to go near this guy. Unless they LIKE this sort of thing...
At a public education forum last April, Tilson witnessed Ben Chavis’ aggressive verbal attack onNew York City Council Member Charles BarronAccording to Tilson, Barron was approached by Chavis who said,
“You're a mother f-ing black pimp, you're f-ing our kids. Come to the reservation and I'll beat your ass. You want our kids to take Home Ec? YOU should wear a dress!"

Lovely, just lovely – what a great behavior to model for his students who hope to find success in the larger society 
For those of us in Oakland who have been experiencing Chavis for years, hearing something like this was nothing new. I wonder if someone will happen to provoke him while he’s out on his book tour; whatever comes out of his mouth is sure to shock. But I wouldn't be surprised to learn that some of his handlers or ed reform patrons have admonished him to tone down his remarks. His words may titillate some people, but will repulse many more others.
Click through to see Whitney's 5-star review: "I LIKE this guy!" You're some judge of character, there, Whitney...

I'm going to quote Perimeter Primate directly from my comments:
Chavis talks big about educating black and brown skinned kids, but he basically changed his school's test scores by changing its demographics. He achieved his "miracle" by recruiting more and more smart Asian kids. Only the most Tigerish parents will send their kids to this school; it is totally unattractive for most everyone else. His AA students have included the children of a local principal -- not exactly kids who have much in common with the typical high risk urban kid in town.
And here are some demographic changes for the Chavis's American Indian Public Charter School in Oakland - watch the American Indian kids just magically fade away...
Please take a look at the changing percentage of students who belong in one of the following subgroups: American Indian or Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, Filipino, Hispanic or Latino, or African American. This is for the 13 school years from 1996-97 to 2008-09. All figures are from DataQuest at the California Department of Education’s website.
· 1996-97 = 100.0
· 1997-98 = 97.0
· 1998-99 = 93.8
· 1999-00 = 100.1
· 2000-01 = 97.0
· 2001-02 = 100
· 2002-03 = 98.7
· 2003-04 = 74.3
· 2004-05 = 55.4
· 2005-06 = 65.3
· 2006-07 = 51.1
· 2007-08 = 50.5
· 2008-09 = 42.3
The school’s American Indian or Alaska Native percentage in 1996-97 was 100%. This year it is 1.1%.
Now look at the changing percentage of the school’s students who are either Asian or White.
· 1996-97 = 0.0
· 1997-98 = 2.9
· 1998-99 = 6.2
· 1999-00 = 0.0
· 2000-01 = 2.9
· 2001-02 = 0.0
· 2002-03 = 1.2
· 2003-04 = 25.7
· 2004-05 = 44.6
· 2005-06 = 33.7
· 2006-07 = 22.4
· 2007-08 = 38.4
· 2008-09 = 54.4*
Ben Chavis took over the failing school in 2001-02. It only took him a short time to figure out how to maximize his school’s test scores. One of his primary methods was simply to change the demographics.
I don't think I've seen a better example of changing a charter's demographics to change the tests scores.

I'll admit that at times I've kept a Jersey-centric focus on corporate education "reform." But it is really, really important for everyone to understand that this is happening everywhere. For every Eva Moskowitz in NYC, there's Ben Chavis in Oakland, and a Derrell Bradford in New Jersey.

The mendacity is part of a national trend, even if it needs to be fought locally.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The argument about changing demographic is meaningless. You must compare performance of the children from the same racial group for AIPC with state average for the same racial group if you want to draw any conclusions regarding effectiveness of AIPC education approach.