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Another charter school “success” story

Submitted by on Sunday, 31 May 2009 No Comment

American Indian Public charter school in Oakland has a history of students with high poverty rates who achieve some of the highest standardized test scores in the California.

It also has a history that includes shaving  a student’s head who was caught stealing and of punishing a boy who stayed home to watch President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Additionally, it attracts students who already are motivated to learn. The school won’t release test scores of in-coming children, but people from surrounding districts told The Los Angeles Times that American Indian tends to attract students who already are academically strong.

And conservative columnists such as George Will hold it up as a shining example of what schools should be. Figures. That set tends to like the “tough on discipline” approach that also worships the bubble test.

Yes, American Indian has some things worth replicating.

The emphasis on discipline is good, but not discipline to the point where students are shorn in front of the entire school by a principal Will calls a “benevolent dictator.” I supposed benevolence is in the eye of the beholder.

Prohibiting electronic devices is great – school should be about textbooks, not texting.

The ban on social promotion is wonderful, because someone has to be able to say, “this student is going to get help.”

I know of one example of a student who has been recommended for retention for several years running, yet the school always asks the parents, who in turn ask the kid, who always says no. Meanwhile, the student continues to flail to the point of nearly drowning now. At some point, someone with more emotional maturity than a grade-schooler needs to be able to say, “friends are fine, but this has to stop because the student is failing.”

And in an era of No Child Left Behind, there always are plenty of folks who will say teaching the test is a good thing, whether the test is the state standardized version or the Advanced Placement exam.

But holding up a school that unapologetically tries to do little more than teach the test – American Indian doesn’t even have lab equipment, presumably because the bubble test doesn’t include Bunsen burners – doesn’t do much to further the dialogue about workable solutions for all the nation’s schools.

Particularly when the school’s fan club can see no flaws in its approach.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg.

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