Education in Oakland

Education News over the Weekend

Posted by novometro on May 14, 2007

Just as NovoMetro readers were debating the possibility that American Indian Public Charter School was cheating on standardized tests, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Saturday that it found tests at 124 schools have been compromised since 2004. While the article does say that the California Department of Education has no way of checking if a school engages in massive cheating, the relatively small size of the cheating discovered in the last three years strengthens my opinion that a school-wide conspiracy lasting several years is improbable.

Another education article in the Chron Saturday reported that graduation rates are at a 10-year low. While Oakland has one of the worst with 46 percent, OUSD outperformed other school districts, like Los Angeles Unified, by holding steady from 2005 to 2006. LA dropped from 46 percent to 41 percent.


42 Responses to “Education News over the Weekend”

  1. Caroline said

    Of course, if the whole world choruses “IMPOSSIBLE! HOW DARE YOU BRING IT UP!” and then starts hurling epithets at anyone who raises the possibility, you can’t really expect much light to be shed on the subject, can you?

  2. shank said

    Caroline,did you say there is no oversight in charter schools? What do you have to say about the 124 public schools that have compromised their test scores as noted in the Chronical?

    A representive from John’s Hopkins University stated that AIPCS has students who are excelling on the universities test. Do you think Dr. Chavis got the university to help his students cheat?

  3. Caroline said

    Those schools’ cheating was largely self-reported.

    I’m familiar with the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth programs, because both my kids participate/d in them. Can you affirm that an outside source from the Johns Hopkins CTY stated that “APICS has students who are excelling on the … test,” or are those results self-reported by AIPCS?

    My understanding as a parent of students participating in the program is that Johns Hopkins reports the results to the participants and the school, but not to third parties.

  4. Caroline said

    And by the way, I’m not disputing that AIPCS “has students who are excelling” on the CTY testing (and SAT for 7th-8th graders). I know that Chavis has made public claims about the percentage of AIPCS students who performed at a certain level on those tests, and what I want to know is whether those are independently verifiable or just Chavis’ word.

  5. Chauncey said

    We have strayed from some basic points. Who is Caroline? Who does she represent? Why is she against charter schools? What does she suggest we do for minority student acievement in Oakland?

    No matter what Caroline, you cannot fight the data.

    I applaud your childrens CTY participation, and am discouraged by my perceptions. But my precocieved perceptions about you, from what you have stated thus far are the following:

    1. that given your stance against Chavis and charters that number. You are a member of OUSD teaching corps and/or are a OEA teacher union member.

    3. You live near or in the hills.

    4. Your kids go to private schools, or schools in the hills.

    5. You are a trust funder?

    6. You are white, since your kids are in CTY.

    We choose to attend AIPCS. We are glad that we chose AIPCS because our kids can go to CTY as well. What other OUSD middle school is this successful? I only know of one other and it is also a charter school, (Oakland CHarter Academy).

    Why old hippies like you, let poor minority residentslike us, use our newest democratic gift-school choice- and bask in the glory us our kids success like you do?

    Perhaps you do not want our kids to mingle with your kind?

  6. Caroline said

    I didn’t ask who anyone else is — what does that have to do with anything? What a lot of bullying AIPCS fans like to do.

    But I will answer anyway. I’m not affiliated with OUSD in any way, and I’m not an educator. I do support teachers and teachers’ unions, though! I’m a San Francisco public-school parent, advocate and volunteer; my kids attend diverse SFUSD public schools. I am not a trust funder (I wish). I follow schools and school politics because i’m interested in them. I am indeed an old hippie — guilty as charged!

    Since my kids go to school with diverse children, including kids from the projects and homeless children, I think I can safely say I don’t oppose their mingling with any “kind.” Where did that come from? Just a freelance blast?

    I’m against charter schools because they’re destructive to public education, which is their intent. Their purpose is to privatize public education.

    As I find the test scores claimed by AIPCS highly suspect, I would like to know the long-term outcomes for AIPCS alumni. If those students are indeed succeeding outstandingly, I would be willing to accept that the test scores aren’t cooked. One poster here made a sweeping claim about colleges, then, when asked for details, begged off.

    If you’re an AIPCS parent, Chauncey, can you give some details? Also, what’s your view on the climate and behavior at that school?

  7. shank said


    Why did you not respond to my questions that I asked you? I will repeat them.

    1. Caroline,did you say there is no oversight in charter schools?

    2.What do you have to say about the 124 public schools that have compromised their test scores as noted in the Chronical?

    3.Do you think Dr. Chavis got the university to help his students cheat?

    Do you realize the term “representive” from John’s Hopkins University stated that AIPCS has students who are excelling on the universities test. This means a person who works for the university and not AIPCS.

    I was at the school gathering last week and Mr. Chuck Rowen from the JHU/CTY program was braging about the AIPS student’s success in the program. Do you belive it now that a white man said it? Why don’t you call him up?

    I am a parent who thanks God every day that my child is at AIPCS. And thank God for sending us Dr. Chavis. The man will do anything to help our children. He buys some of them students cloths, bus passes and pays out of his own pocket for them to take the SAT and college courses and other things I don’t have time to list.

    I know he thinks liberals are the worse thing in the world when it comes to education and minorites.
    That’s his view and it’s fine with me and mine as long our children get a good education.

    The thing that is crazy and wonderful about all this is Dr. Chavis gets our children in the program free and you have to pay for your two kids. Just more proof why we are blessed by God to have Dr. Chavis working with our children.

    I will pray for you and yours because I understand you fears. God be with you.

  8. shank said


    Why did you not respond to my questions that I asked you? I will repeat them.

    1. Caroline,did you say there is no oversight in charter schools?

    2.Do you think Dr. Chavis got the university to help his students cheat?

    Do you realize the term “representive” from John’s Hopkins University stated that AIPCS has students who are excelling on the universities test. This means a person who works for the university and not AIPCS.

    I was at the school gathering last week and Mr. Chuck Rowen from the JHU/CTY program was braging about the AIPS student’s success in the program. Do you belive it now that a white man said it? Why don’t you call him up?

    I am a parent who thanks God every day that my child is at AIPCS. And thank God for sending us Dr. Chavis. The man will do anything to help our children. He buys some of them students cloths, bus passes and pays out of his own pocket for them to take the SAT and college courses and other things I don’t have time to list.

    I know he thinks liberals are the worse thing in the world when it comes to education and minorites.
    That’s his view and it’s fine with me and mine as long our children get a good education.

    The thing that is crazy and wonderful about all this is Dr. Chavis gets our children in the program free and you have to pay for your two kids. Just more proof why we are blessed by God to have Dr. Chavis working with our children.

    I will pray for you and yours because I understand you fears. God be with you.

  9. Caroline said

    Yes, I said there is no oversight of charter schools, because it’s true. Nobody is in charge; they de facto answer to no one.

    I was not raising the possibility of cheating on the Johns Hopkins CTY tests, which are not what the state’s Academic Performance Index is based on. I only asked about that because someone posted as though the JHUCTY scores are public. So the university has nothing to do with it. It’s the state API, based on the state standardized tests, that piques my suspicion. Those are the tests on which an administrator — especially in a charter school, overseen by no one — might find ample opportunity to cook the scores.

    The Chronicle story, which happened to appear just as AIPCS supporters were yelling that it’s absolutely impossible to cheat on the state standardized tests, discussed various ways that might happen. Clearly, it’s very possible.

    Yes, other schools have done it, and there will always be places where it will happen. The article also made clear that breaches like that are almost entirely self-reported by the schools. None of those schools showed anything like AIPCS’s soaring test scores, either.

    I would still love to know where AIPCS alumni have gone to high school, and where the 12 APICS alumni who are old enough to have graduated from high school are studying or working.

  10. Chauncey said

    I think we all need to quit this nonsense of back and forth. Lets see the Caoliner for what she really represents.

    This lady is a union member from OUSD whose job is to hatchet any thing about charter schools, this is a fact!

    In the meantime, the union reads the writing on the wall. It is a matter of time befroe we see their demise. How many charters in Oakland? If AIPCS is cheating, what about other charter success?

    Research: Unity High School(OAK), Gateway HS (SF),Oakland Charter Academy(OAK), East Oakland Leadership(OAK), School of the Arts (OAK), and Downtown College Prep, (SJ).

    School Choice is no longer for the upper class people who can choose private or public. Now us poor blacks and get a solid education.

    The union loses dollars for every charter school who are not union. It is all dollars and cents to these people.

    School Choice is Life Changing!

  11. Caroline said

    I would be proud to be an Oakland Unified School District teacher and union member, but actually I’m not one. I’m not a teacher at all.

    It’s sad and baffling when someone who seems so interested in education is so hostile to teachers. If it’s “all dollars and cents to those people,” why did they go into a challenging and low-paying profession? With the education they’re required to have, they could be making far more money and not getting constantly attacked by anti-public-education forces. Is the culture at AIPCS to teach everyone that teachers are evil and greedy?

    I do oppose charter schools. They’re a harmful force aimed at weakening and ultimately eliminating public education. They’re undemocratic and unaccountable.

    Some of the charter schools on your list are high-scoring, but let’s look at some anyway.

    San Jose’s Downtown College Prep took a huge plunge in API (test scores) last year. Its supporters claim that its students blew the tests as a protest over the dismissal of some popular teachers. Good excuse, and maybe it’s true(presumably we’ll find out when this year’s scores are posted). Still, the fact that there was such unrest, if true, indicates that the “miracle!” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

    SFUSD’s Gateway charter is indeed a successful school. I have a number of friends with kids there. However, this is NOT a school teaching ghetto students. It’s far more middle-class and white than other schools and then the district overall (even though it’s located in the heavily African-American Western Addition). Also, it clearly picks and chooses its students, requiring a nine-page enrollment application to get INTO the alleged “blind” “lottery.” It officially denies picking and choosing, wink wink, but everyone at the school knows.

    Unity and East Oakland Leadership have mediocre test scores. And both they and the other two higher scores clearly discriminate against English learners, disabled students or both — most of those schools have zero or almost none of either. So, they may be doing great, but they are also discriminating and using selective admissions, while claiming not to do so.

  12. Chauncey said

    I got a right to be hostile, Im black, broke, and live in the projects. I do not care how much teachers make or dont! That is your union’s fault, plus they should have never went in to teaching in the first placce.

    I do not know of any other job where people get summers, christmas, thnxgivind, and spring break off do you? Lets pay them well, and make them go year round like have to in the junkyard!

    Charter schools pay more becuase they do not have a union.

    Tell OUSD Union(OEA) and Mrs. Olson-Jones the President that your cover is blown.

    Caroline is an OUSD (OEA) Representative. Minority Oakland parents are used to your dirty tactics. You have ruined our kids for years, now we have a choice where to go to school. That is democratice aint it?

    The school teach at has the lowest scores in Oakland. Good Luck to you and and your kids.

    I have three other kids in the OUSD schools, so I guess OUSD also has hostile parents.

    Welcom to the ghetto.

  13. Caroline said

    Interesting! OK, if you say so, I guess I’m an Oakland teacher. News to me, my family, my employers, and the Oakland school district and teachers’ union. Which school do I supposedly teach at?

    Actually charter schools almost always pay less, for the record.

  14. Deckin said

    I must say, personal attacks are no way to go after a position, but if you’re going to use them, use the right ones. There is a legitimate personal attack available against Caroline and it is this. By her own admission, she sends her kids to public schools in SF. Now she can talk about diversity all she wants in SFUD, but the public schools there are nowhere near as bad as in Oakland and the socio-economic challenges pale in comparison. Not everyone has the luxury to send their kids to a better district, but Caroline does. Yet she would deny people who don’t have that luxury the option of going outside the OUD to an Oakland charter. If she really wants to defend public education IN OAKLAND, she should put her children where her mouth is and enroll them where she lives. The faith of convenience is a shallow one indeed, Caroline.

  15. Caroline said

    You’re right that personal attacks are no way to go after a position, and in fact the use of them simply discredits the attacker. If you had any legitimate response to my comments, you’d use it instead of launching an attack.

    I live in San Francisco, by the way. I think I already said that.

    Mr. Novometro, if I were you, my faith in the fabulosoness of AIPCS would have been shaken just a bit by the response to my comments here.

    We saw a barrage of personal attacks devoid of any substance — plus some really disturbing notions. Humiliation, intimidating and bullying are good for kids and inspire them to academic achievement? Ghetto kids need a cruel, harsh environment in school because that’s what they’re used to? This stuff is totally creepy.

  16. novometro said

    Many of Oakland’s traditional middle schools are “cruel, harsh” environments. They are cruel because they fail so miserably. The mean comments here didn’t shake my faith in AIPCS. I have been there several times, and the mood is neither creepy, nor intimidating. There is a sense that children are happy, stimulated, and feel safe. I recommend that anyone with an interest in urban education visit the school. It is misrepresented by stories that dwell on Ben Chavis’ behavior.

  17. Caroline said

    His behavior is essentially irrelevant — it was the comments by AIPCS enthusiasts endorsing brutalizing students that give me the creeps. I’m sorry — if that’s the way to achieve academic success, I don’t want any part of it.

  18. novometro said

    It’s a shame you can’t be troubled to go see for yourself what the atmosphere at the school is like.

  19. Caroline said

    If I ever get a chance, I’d be interested. I’m a working mom in San Francisco and would have to get over to the East Bay. So it’s not really a matter of “can’t be troubled.” I follow charter school news around the country, and unfortunately I can’t visit all of them. Sorry I don’t have endless free time and resources! Wish I did.

    Needless to say, I have gotten some impression of what the atmosphere of the school is like from press reports, including those prior to the recent East Bay Express story.

    But what I’m responding to are the comments from enthusiasts of the school, here and on that other blog, endorsing bullying and intimidating kids as a strategy for motivating them to succeed academically.

  20. Devo said

    YOu dont have time to visit, but you got endless time to chat. Visit the school why dont you and all of our miseries!

  21. Caroline said

    So only the privileged and amply resourced, who have the leisure time and freedom to make on-site excursions to learn about issues firsthand, have the right to comment on topics like public education? Sorry, I don’t share that anti-democracy, elitist view.

    One benefit of the Internet is that it does allow ordinary working people like me to learn about issues and participate in public discussion. You all presumably have ample leisure and resources to do that kind of thing. You’re lucky. Wish I did, but I don’t. It might be good for you to try to empathize a bit with those of us who are less privileged than yourselves.

  22. Deckin said

    I find it hard to believe that Caroline is surprised by the vehemence of actual Oakland residents who face the real prospects of sending their loved ones to the cesspool that is much of the OUD. Like I said before, she’s in a very convenient position to take potshots at charter schools.

    But a more serious point is her seemingly disinterested retreat to statistical improbability as the prime mover behind her scepticism. The problem is that the improbability of a dramatic jump in scores only makes sense against a background belief that the early scores were a fair appraisal of the students’ abilities. In other words, if I suddenly ran a 4 minute mile, if an unbiased observer is critical of the improvement they are betraying a presupposition that my earlier slow times are an accurate assesment of my fitness. If one had no knowledge or bias either way, a mere increase in scores could be taken either as people living up to their abilities (in which case the earlier scores were not reflective of what they could accomplish) or some sort of cheating (in which case the earlier scores were reflective). Now Caroline might reply that there is a pattern here (that is, lots of bad scores throughout these kids’ lives, not just one), but the same point applies to them as well. Unless you think they really are as stupid as the scores indicate, you shouldn’t be that surprised that the scores go up–especially if you have evidence that something else has changed: the curriculum, the teachers, the principal, etc. But of course we have evidence of all of that at AIPCS.

    What Caroline is committed to is either (1) that it’s more likely, given the pattern of scores in OUD, that the pattern of miserable test scores are an accurate reflection of students’ abilities than it is that someone, with a dramatic commitment and hard working staff, could legitimately raise test socres. OR, (2), that the pattern of test scores are not an accurate reflection of students’ abilities, but that something is keeping them down. Given that they have all been in the public schools up till the point in question, this can only mean that either it’s the public schools that have been keeping the students down, or that the public schools are not up to the task of raising students up to their potential. Either way, this itself would be a good argument for Charters.

    So which is it, Caroline? Either you have a dim view of the students of Oakland or a dim view of the OUD–you can’t have it both ways.

  23. Caroline said

    I’m not all that familiar with OUSD. It appears to me, from afar, to be a district that struggles with huge challenges, including a great many high-need, low-income students clustered in many schools — and a history of poor management.

    But I do know enough about education to be skeptical about the magical-thinking notion that there’s some oh-so-simple formula for making test scores shoot up to that extent.

  24. drummer510 said

    I’m not siding with either side, because I am just another white-middle class college student who is from Oakland, who got a chance to live to the high-life of go to (god-forbid) Piedmont High School. Being the at the complete opposite end of the spectrum, I am sharing point of view:

    Caroline is right, charter schools do hurt the overall public school system, because they take kids outta the system who might succeed in the system and may have helped others succeed. This in turn hurts the system. The fact that teachers arent part of the Techers Union obviously hurts the union as well, BUT…..

    The Oakland Public School system along with many other urban public school systems are in such disaray, are under funded, and try to fufill soooo much political correctness that in the end there needs to be a strong leader or yes a dictor who doesn’t care about the excess bullshit and gets the job done. Chavis makes it clear that there are much bigger issues than dealing with political correctness.

    We live in an age were kid’s self-esteem and morale are held in such high regard that we lose sight of the ultimate goal that kids learn to work hard and ultimately learn skills that will help them in the future.

    Maybe more Oakland schools need no-bull-shit leaders to turn the their schools/communities around. Also middle school is a time when kids seem to be most crazy and need structure/discipline. Unfortunately, Caroline, charter schools may be part of a larger solution to turn around the Oakland schools.

    The thing is people can succeed in an Oakland public school, I have friends who have done well and go to really great colleges. But they have to have a strong support/discipline system backing them up, i.e. family, friends, community. Most charters schools provide that support system that kids need.

    Caroline is right though, there is no “oh-so-simple formula” it has to be the community, the school, the government, and especially the parents who help/push kids to succeed in acedemics.

    As far as the cheating, let me put it this way: I really hope there is no subplot to the Chavis story, but he is “crazy” and I really hope he hasn’t/doesn’t do something that would jeopardize his job or the school.

    As I said I went to Piedmont High School and have an outside point of view. I hope I don’t get ostrocized. These personal attacks against Caroline are sorta immature and aren’t condusize to public discussion.

  25. Deckin said

    It’s interesting that, given an analysis of what appear to be her presuppositions and a chance to either own them or argue that my analysis is mistaken, Caroline punts. I actually expected more: I could think of a few other suppositions consistent with the ‘cheating’ hypothesis. Oh well.

    As for Drummer, your low opinion of charter schools puts the cart before the horse. Charter schools probably do skim off the motivated student-parent teams that a public school system needs, but they’ve done that for a reason. It’s not as if things were going well in public schools and high performing students and parents just decided to go with a whim. Public schools have been failing for so long that the charter school movement grew organically from the frustration of the very students and parents that you rightly note they need most. But the public schools have only themselves to blame. The educratic community is rotten through and through. If you want to see it, start at the beginnings of most teachers’ careers: schools of education. These hotbeds of nonsense, largely by dint of the drivel that passes for a curriculum there, consistently attract the very lowest performing college students in the country. In fact, if you look at GRE scores, you’ll find the scores of education majors to be the very lowest. And these are the ones we leave our children to!? And please don’t respond with the canard that low teacher salaries are the reason for attracting the worst and the dumbest: the salary expectations of those going to grad school in philosophy are arguably much worse than those in education, yet the scores for those who major in that field, are, on average, the highest across all GRE subtests. The reason smart people don’t go into education is that the institutions of education training in this country are run by idiots and are populated by idiots and once one gets a job teaching, one becomes utterly micromanaged by idiots. What bright student would want to run with that crowd?

  26. Caroline said

    I am punting the debate over OUSD because that’s not what I’m here to talk about and that’s not what I’m informed about. I will happily discuss charter schools (about which I am quite informed) and the likelihood that this one has legitimately shot its scores into the stratosphere, simply by bullying the students into high achievement.

    I’m a former consumer reporter, and the motto throughout the consumer world is: If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Education is no different.

  27. Caroline said

    And I always wonder why people who loathe teachers (some traumatic experience back in 4th grade?) are so drawn to charter schools. Charter schools have teachers too, most of whom probably went to those same evil pit-of-hell colleges that are turning out the demon spawn who pillage our youth in traditional public schools. What magical-thinking notion leads you teacher-haters to believe that charter school teachers are some wonderful saintly breed by comparison?

    I’m just winding up my 19th kid-year as an urban public school parent, and all I can say it that I decry the venom directed at teachers, who overall are a hardworking, committed, compassionate and underpaid group of people.

  28. Deckin said


    I don’t loathe teachers, I am one! I’ve taught at several universities and colleges in the Bay Area (and out of state) and I deal with the issue of some of our public (and private) schools every day, directly. I dare say I’ve got quite a bit more experience with the product of our public schools than you do, with all your 19 kid years.

    The problem isn’t teachers, per se, but the educratic institutions of teacher training and employment (that would be unions) that have had a strangle-hold over public education for close to fifty years now. There are great teachers at every level and no doubt some in even our worst schools. But you haven’t spent much time around public schools if you are completely blind to the absurd constraints placed on teachers and schools that force good teachers out (often to charter schools)–teachers at public schools have absolutely no control over their classes, over what they teach, and no one has any control over bad teachers (and if you don’t know that there are many, many of these, then you really are blind).

    If you really cared about teachers, you’d do anything to support those who want to work in environments where they have autonomy to teach, free of constraints from idiotic educratic administrators (almost an oxymoron) and free really to put students first. How can you possibly be against well meaning people who are trying to break through the stultifying bureacracy of less than mediocracy that is the public schools if you really cared about either teachers or students?

  29. Caroline said

    That was from outer space, Deckin!

    Actually, even supporters of nonunion charters acknowledge that they burn through teachers at a frenzied rate. That’s because many of the “it’s a miracle!” charters demand a superhuman commitment with their extra-long hours, extended school year and Saturday schools, and requirements that teachers be on call by cellphone 24/7, or close to it.

    Some newsworthy examples are KIPP schools; the once-hailed, now-fizzled, for-profit Edison schools; and San Jose’s Downtown College Prep, which is constantly drenched with gushing from the right (despite a drastic plunge in test scores the most recent year, supposedly because of a student protest). High teacher turnover is frequently cited as a drawback of these schools even by those who otherwise shower them with praise.

    So you kind of stand alone in your field in trying to claim that charters offer teachers better working conditions. Consistently and obviously, the opposite is true.

    So why do teachers work for charters? Charters don’t require teachers to be credentialed, and they hire beginners who are having trouble finding jobs — I have a friend like that, who is finishing her first teaching year in a charter and desperately trying for a job in a non-charter next year.

  30. Deckin said


    You have a general objection to charter schools–that I can’t understand. I have a general problem with the way public schools operate–that apparently you can’t understand. I don’t have to defend every charter school in order to be sympathetic to any attempt to get around the educratic bureaucracy that has failed so many students. I’m sure there are bad charter schools–just as there are bad colleges and bad universities. But there’s a reason that the US has, by far, the number one system of higher education in the world: We have competition at the college level, in every way. Even community colleges in this state compete against each other because any student can attend any community college. The result of that is not that every school is good; the result is that we have more good colleges and universities than any other country by far. But those who attack charter schools seem to have a problem with the exact same kind of system that makes our state community colleges and universities so good. Why can’t we have public schools compete with charters? Why can’t parents have that option? Why do you feel compelled to defend a monopoly that has so dissatisfied so many?

  31. Caroline said

    I see you’ve dropped your claim that teachers prefer to teach in charters, Deckin.

    Yes, I have an objection to charter schools, because the charter movement is a concerted effort to weaken and ultimately eliminate public education, intended to fully privatize education.

    That does not mean that I think public education has no problems. But this bogus, magical-thinking “it’s a miracle!” fad is not the solution. And putting our resources and faith in a false solution does further harm to public education.

    The reason we have a strong higher-education system is that our colleges and universities are not obligated to educate every student. Plus nobody is required by law to go to college, so nobody is there against their will. (I’m sorry to be so rude, but this is a mega-DUH.) If our K-12 schools could take only kids who wanted to be there, and could pick-n-choose, rejecting and ejecting the students with high needs and problems, they would be an entirely different system.

    When you say charters “compete” with public schools, what you mean is that charters get the students who at least had parents motivated enough to seek out a school; they further pick-n-choose and then dump their rejects back on traditional public schools. THEN they proclaim themselves superior to the schools they dumped the rejects on. That’s only one of my issues with them, but that’s the “competition” you refer to. That’s as much BS as your previous claim that teachers prefer to teach in charters.

    Here, again, is my explanation for why I oppose charter schools.

  32. Deckin said


    You’ve completely missed my point about the strength of our colleges and universities. The point wasn’t about the strength of our colleges versus our high schools–that’s a rather ridiculous comparison (apples to oranges). The point was that our college system is the best compared to the college systems of other countries who don’t have competition at that level. In other countries, there is a virtual government monopoly on higher education and it shows. In our country there is none, and it shows too.

    In this country, we have had compulsory education requirements for over a hundred years (in some locations), so you can’t seriously blame that for the current problems of public schools. Moreover, you impute that the goal of the charter movement is to privatize education. I have no idea what the goals of the charter movement are, or that there even is a coherent stable movement called the charter movement that has a uniform set of goals. There seem to be lots of charters about lots of different things. There’s absolutely no reason why one couldn’t be in favor of having both public and charter schools–why not have both? You complain that charters pick and choose the better students. Well, why haven’t public schools been doing that sufficiently? In your district, there is a highly competitive school (Lowell) that does just that, and, you’ll notice, you don’t have any great impetus for a competitive charter. Has it occured to you that those two things are not coincidentally related?

    If districts would acknowledge that not all students are cognitively equal and would (with ample opportunities and tutoring and the like) fashion schools to handle this diversity, then you’d probably have no charter schools to worry about. But that time honored system (usually called ‘tracking’) was dumped in a misguided fit of political correctness and now you see the great hydraulic principle: if you press down on something that is responding to a natural need that won’t go away with legislation (giving bright students a place to be bright), it just squirts out someplace else.

  33. Caroline said

    I can’t discuss the higher-education systems of other countries knowledgeably. I CAN tell you why our higher-education system doesn’t face the challenges that our public K-12 system does, and that’s what I did. It has nothing to do with whether it’s a “monopoly” or not — that’s just silly blather from the free-market PR mills. It has to do with who the students are.

    There are a trillion pressures on our public schools that didn’t exist until recently. I can see you’re completely unfamiliar with K-12 education, so I’ll try to explain briefly. There may have been “compulsory education” to a point, but it used to be the norm for the majority of students — all but the elite — to drop out of school before finishing high school. My own grandmother, born in 1899 in the Appalachians, dropped out after 8th grade to go to work in a glove factory. That was the norm and the expectation in her family and culture, and it would have been an unthinkable act of defiance and disloyalty for her to attempt to stay in school.

    According to Nicholas Lemann in the book “The Big Test,” the high school graduation rate only hit 50% around WWII.

    We (as a culture) accepted totally substandard schools for the poor and minorities, despite lip service to the concept of “equal,” as in “separate but equal.” We accepted a very high illiteracy rate. There was no such thing as accountability or standardizing testing to track how different subgroups were learning, even if they did stay in school. A key point: there was no such thing as mainstreaming special education for children with any type of disability, and no right to any particular quality of education, until IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act) in the ’70s.

    A selective high school for high achievers is a form of tracking, and I think Lowell successfully meets a need. But it’s in the open that Lowell selects for academic achievement — it’s a longstanding part of the SFUSD school system.

    The charter schools do it surreptitiously, deny doing it, and then attack the public schools on which they dump their rejects, proclaiming themselves superior. All of that does harm to public schools. Plus they drain students and resources away from those schools. (Lowell, by contrast, gets about the lowest funding of any SFUSD high school.)

    And predatory charter schools push to come into SFUSD all the time, so your notion that that’s not happening because Lowell exists is as uninformed as the rest of your commentary on K-12 education. We have a bunch now, and are resisting pressure from others. The state Board of Ed will force into our district (and any other district) any charter that pursues its cause that far, so we will probably get more.

  34. Deckin said

    If you’ll concede tracking and elite high schools in the public school system, that’s a point of agreement. I honestly think that a failure to fully do this is a big impetus behind charter schools, and for sure it is in Oakland (which, if you’ll recall, was the original issue–why someone who neither lives nor works in Oakland is spending time reading blogs about Oakland news is something I’ll leave for others to ponder). The reason people are clamoring to get into American Indian is because of high test scores–if the test scores are faked, then as soon as the SAT’s come back, every parent will have figured this out and that will be the end of American Indian. If it’s fake, everyone will know soon enough. If OUD had an elite high school where admission was tied to merit, I guarantee you’d have a massive demand that would put OUD out of its debt and make thousands of parents happy.

    But answer me this: Why have charter schools gained any traction at all? Why have they found willing parents to send to their schools? Are you denying that these parents have legitimate problems? Are you saying they should martyr their children so that the unified system can maintain a stable funding stream? Answer this question honestly: If you lived across the street from McClymonds High and you’re child were about to enter 9th grade, would you honestly send them there without the slightest attempt to find a ‘better’ fit? Honestly. And, if you found nothing better that they could attend in the OUD, would you then refuse to even consider a charter in the area that was providing at least discipline and structure? Tell the world that you would sacrifice your child to your political beliefs before you condemn others who don’t have your advantages for doing the same.

    When you say things like ‘draining students and funding’ you’re presupposing that the unified system has a right to all the students in that district. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that anyone has a right to my child’s attendance at their school. If they want to earn my child’s attendance and the money it brings, then they more power to them. But if someone else can do it, then they have a right to try.

    From what I’ve read, I imagine you’re right about all the extra burdens we, as voters, have placed on public schools, but if the effect of charter schools is that we have a tiered system where high performing students go to charters and lower to the ‘public’ schools, isn’t this just, in effect, the kind of tracking you seem to approve of? It would certainly be ‘out in the open’ then, wouldn’t it? You seem to want the public schools to retain the right to the best students, even while they have to contend with the less than best. But to do that, they have to offer things to parents and, in a free society, if they don’t, parents are free to demand things; like, say, charter schools.

  35. Caroline said

    Hey, Deckin, this just landed in my inbox from the Education Policy Research Lab at Arizona State.

    Teacher Attrition Rate Higher at Charter Schools Than Traditional Public Schools
    More than twice as likely as those in regular schools to leave after one year, research finds.

    TEMPE, Ariz and BOULDER, Colo. May 22, 2007 — As many as 40 percent of newer charter school teachers end up leaving for other jobs, a new study concludes.
    The report, “Teacher Attrition in Charter Schools,” by Gary Miron and Brooks Applegate, of the Western Michigan University Evaluation Center, was released by the Education Policy Research Unit at Arizona State University and by the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
    In the past, research has focused on why teachers seek charter school jobs, but the equally important question of teacher attrition in charter schools has been largely unexamined.
    “High attrition consumes resources of schools that must regularly provide pre- and in-service training to new teachers; it impedes schools’ efforts to build professional learning communities and positive and stable school cultures; and it is likely to undermine the legitimacy of the schools in the eyes of parents,” the authors note.
    The new research from Miron and Applegate is based on their analyses of data collected in surveys of charter school employees from around the country conducted from 1997 to 2006.
    Attrition rates fluctuate from year to year and state to state, but typically as many as one in five or one in four charter school teachers leave each year-approximately double the typical public school attrition rate, which is around 11 percent.
    In addition to being younger and less experienced, the researchers found that teachers who quit charter schools were more likely to be uncertified. Teachers with higher levels of formal education were more likely to stay.
    Attrition among inexperienced and younger teachers may be particularly critical for charter schools, because the percentage of charter-school teachers under 30 (37 percent) is more than three times that of traditional public schools (11 percent).
    Teachers who reported less satisfaction with their charter school’s mission, its ability to achieve that mission, or its administration and governance also were more likely to leave. “It appeared that teachers who were not satisfied were leaving or were being asked to leave,” Miron and Applegate report.
    Attrition rates were highest among upper grade teachers, especially in grades 6, 7, 10, and 11, the researchers found.
    Charter school teachers who have remained have told surveyors they were “generally optimistic about their schools” but many still reported feeling insecure in their jobs, the researchers found. Meanwhile, attrition rates “suggest substantive frustration with working conditions and dissatisfaction with salaries, benefits, administration, and governance.”
    Based on their findings Miron and Applegate recommend that supporters of charter schools “would be well-advised to focus on reducing high turnover, especially for new teachers in charter schools.” They also recommend that charter schools:
    . Identify discrepancies and devise strategies to narrow the gaps between teachers’ expectations for charter schools and the realities of those schools;
    . Strengthen teachers’ sense of security in charter schools; and
    . Improve teachers’ satisfaction with working conditions, salaries, benefits and governance.
    “The large numbers of teachers who are ‘voting with their feet’ suggest substantive frustration with working conditions and dissatisfaction with salaries, benefits, administration, and governance,” the researchers conclude. “The high attrition rates for teachers in charter schools constitute one of the greatest obstacles that will need to be overcome if the charter school reform is to deliver as promised.”

    Find Gary Miron’s and Brooks Applegate’s report, “Teacher Attrition in Charter Schools” on the web at:

  36. Caroline said


    I don’t oppose tracking and elite high schools in the public school system. My kids are both in honors classes.

    But surreptitiously picking-n-choosing while claiming not to — and then proclaiming your school superior to the ones on whom your rejects are dumped — is an entirely different story.

    I don’t spend time reading any other blog items about Oakland, but the gushing about AIPCS goes far, far beyond Oakland — nationwide, in fact — so I do follow high-profile charter schools.


    If they’re faked, it may come out sometime, though my guess would be that the school would quietly fizzle and it would never really become crystal-clear. It’s really hard to know. Edison Schools put out totally false information about their test scores back when they were the media and right-wing darling, and I really thought they would crash in flames — but instead they are quietly fading out. (Their former cheerleaders now treat them like an embarrassing odor in the room.)

    It’s not as simple as low SATs meaning that parents would suddenly realize they’d been had. For example: I have a relative graduating from a private school that notoriously grade-inflates, basically giving A’s for breathing. She’s graduating with a 4.0, but her SATs suck. Rather than thinking “Jeez, we paid all this money for a school that gave her A’s but didn’t teach her s***,” her parents say, “She’s just not a good test-taker!” Well, you couldn’t say the EXACT same thing if your child had supposedly high STAR test scores and low SATs, but nobody’s immediate reaction would be “the STAR test scores were faked!” It would just be “damn, she had a bad day when she took the SATs.” Maybe it would come out if the whole school compared SATs, but they won’t.


    Maybe so. SFUSD is still in debt, though. My district still faces the challenge and high costs of teaching a large number of high-need students.


    No, I have repeatedly said that Oakland (and other public) schools have problems.

    I can see why parents with no other options pursue a charter school for their kids. So that is a quandary, and I don’t blame individual parents. But that doesn’t change the facts that charters are not the solution for myriad reasons and that they do harm to the public-school situation, attacking and weakening public schools, so that overall they are a harmful force and not a solution.


    I have not condemned parents for choosing charters. I condemn the charter movement for the harm it intentionally does to public education.


    I am not. I’m just saying they drain students and funding from traditional public schools, because they do. It is what it is.


    If it were out in the open that would be a different thing. Right now we have a charter movement, with AIPCS as a prime example, falsely claiming to be the solution for low-income, high-need students. Actually, they are working with only a select subgroup of low-income, high-need students, dumping the rest. Mega-wealthy forces pour bucketloads of money into charters in the false belief that they’re solving the challenges of public education, which they’re not. Because the charter movement lies about the selectivity, it attracts all that money on false pretenses.

    As you saw on my “middle-class” website, there are other problems with charters. The fact that they are unaccountable and de facto answer to no one — and that they’re bountiful easy pickins for thieves and swindlers, further draining resources from public schoolchildren — are serious problems.

    Traditional public schools could just as easily pick-n-choose the better, more motivated, non-troublemaking students and sweep them off into their own schools, and do just as well — without those other drawbacks of charter schools.

    We do have democratically elected school boards in most places (I know Oakland is an anomaly) and could theoretically lobby for a system like that. So maybe that’s the answer. But the answer isn’t for charters to skim off the higher achievers and more motivated students and then falsely claim to be the answer for education.

  37. Caroline said

    Sorry, the brackets I used to delineate quotes make them go away on this blogger program. But you get the idea of what I was responding to.

  38. KING said

    do you really believe AIPCH and AIPHS are cheating? If you really belive they cheat , why dont you go over to the school and take a look for youslef! when you go over there, you would not see any students out of their seat or yelling or being disruptive! and trust me, i have been there! and also they are the best school in oakland! if it wasnt the best school, why would you think the governor would come? and wouldn;t they have already found out? you can’t base things on thier skin color! just because *whites* have better acess to better things suck as books, computers , pens , and paper! you are just inorate for beliving they can’t do it!

  39. Deckin said

    Ultimately, KING has the right response to Caroline. As I tried to argue before (but Caroline refused to address), if you claim it looks suspicious, that’s because you’re betraying a belief about what is ‘normal’ for those students. Caroline ought to just come out and admit that she doesn’t think ‘those’ kind of students are capable of that kind of increase without cheating. You can’t have it both ways: you can’t think that ‘those’ kinds of students could perform as well if your beloved public systems were given even more funding, but couldn’t possibly do that under Chavis’ charter unless you’ve got some specific evidence to the effect that what he’s doing couldn’t possibly do what I’m assuming you think public schools could do. You can be against charter schools in general, but you cannot use Chavis as a foil in that unless you have what everyone on this site is rightly demanding: EVIDENCE.

  40. Caroline said

    I do not “believe” that they’re cheating. I repeat: a school with a no-holds-barred, break-all-rules, do-what-it-takes, in-your-face chief administrator who is under no supervision and entirely unaccountable, free to do exactly what he pleases without any checks or balances — and skyrocketing achievement — is open to suspicion of cooking the test scores.

    That has nothing to do with the color of the kids. And I would view it as suspect if a traditional public school were in that situation too. But that there’s no such thing as a traditional public school with zero accountability and supervision.

    I’m perfectly free to say that I think it’s suspect without providing evidence. What a bunch of blusterers you all are!

  41. Luis Morales said

    I do not spek an wrtite good inglish but my son told me what you are saying about our scool and I wold like to talk better to yoou but we do not no who you are so i write caus my son feels bad that yopu do not think Mexican kids can be smart.

    I tols my two kids who are at OCA that I think so you are the reacist lady. My children go to Oaklan Charter and you say the are cheating, and now you say you do not belief they are cheating I do not understan you. what do you beleif.

    Plese come and tell us in to our face but you only rite mean things you are just like the distrcit of oakland who tell us to go there scools and not to charters cause they are bad. My son did not lern in Oakland district thety learn alot with mr. lopez at oaklnd charter cause he shows them disicplne and to hard work to be the best. why do you white guys do not like disipline. My nefews got bet up by kids at district scools and nobody do nothing casu the priniple was scared of the kids an the momms.I think so they canot be scared of the parens.

    I told my kids that what you say is what many white peopel are thinks abot us you only thinks we are good to clean your house and cookm your food and workin the fieilds.I tell i think you are scared becasue wha yo say is good es really no good for the kids and why oca and charters are beting them. I hope so you keep riting becuse it makes my kids mad workin better to be a better scool.

  42. Caroline said

    Mr. Morales, I do not think your children themselves are cheating. But both of those schools make claims that their overall test scores have skyrocketed that I find somewhat suspicious, for reasons that I’ve already explained.

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