Education in Oakland

Ben Chavis Quits

Posted by novometro on July 23, 2007

Ben Chavis is no longer the principal of American Indian Public Charter School. His last day was June 30, and follows a spring in which Oakland Unified School District looked into allegations that he verbally abused a group of visiting graduate students and made inappropriate racial comments to administrators at another school. Chavis says that his retiring from the school has nothing to do with OUSD. “I’d stay to fight,” he said. The high school is also losing its principal, Carey Blakely, who is leaving Oakland for San Diego. Isaac Berniker, the former site administrator, is the new principal of the middle school.


17 Responses to “Ben Chavis Quits”

  1. Meredith said

    This is sad — for the students and the school. All those people whose kids don’t go to school here and who hate a principal they’ve never met can feel happy now.

  2. dto510 said

    If he didn’t quit because of OUSD pressure, then why did he? What is he going to do now?

  3. novometro said

    He said it had long been in the works. He will divide his time between CA and AZ, and consult with AIPCS.

  4. Donny Brook said

    He has kicked himself upstairs! The American Indian Public Charter School model is replicating and expanding under Ben’s leadership. New middle schools are opening, new high schools are opening, and other schools using the same model are being mentored. considering the two top performing OUSD schools are AIPCS and the school it mentors, Oakland Charter Academy, each additional school will be just ANOTHER high-academically-performing school that will humiliate the OUSD which cannot produce such high performing schools. We should expect MORE complaints by Oakland teachers unions, educrats, and sympathetic journalists who are afraid that the more AIPCS succeeds, the more jobs the OUSD will lose. No one has ever done such a good job educating Oakland students. There is a long waiting list to get into AIPCS and Oakland Charter Academy. If all the lies about Dr. Chavis were true, parents would be running to yank their kids out of the school. Instead they are running to apply to get in or get on the waitlist. Parents vote with their feet, and AIPCS & Dr. Chavis win!

  5. Caroline said

    Here’s the East Bay Express story on Chavis’ resignation:

  6. Sharon said

    In 2001 when Dr. Chavis started at AIPCS, the percentage of African American, American Indian and Latino students was 100%. By 2003, that percentage had dropped to 74%. By 2004 it had dropped to 55%. In the 2006-2007 school year, the percentage of African American, American Indian and Latino students was 50%. (This information is based on California Department of Education website figures.)

    If you look at average test scores, either district-wide or nationally, Asian and White students score higher. Change the demographics at any school, and you will see a change in the test scores. If all schools could select only the kids who would perform well, then every school’s test scores would rise. The kids who are most needy and most difficult to educate would still be “left behind.”

    Also, it is well known in the AIPCS neighborhood (where I’ve lived for 19 years) that Dr. Chavis visited the local elementary schools and actively sought out high-testing students. Also, the local public middle school (Bret Harte) regularly received students to enroll who had been kicked out of AIPCS just before testing in the spring.

    I will admit that I did like the general sense of order and cleanliness at the school. But of course, that type of environment is much easier to create when your students have been well-trained at home by parents who are proactive and engaged, no matter what income level they have.

    Because I know what I know, I will never give Chavis credit for accomplishing much of anything and I am glad he is gone. The real test would have been if he had taken on the most challenging students in Oakland and had been able to work miracles with them.

    • JW said

      talk about racial profiling…geez…Chavis was sucessful due to some vary basic reasons…..too bad you missed them.

    • Ecco said

      Looks like the shills for the Teachers Unions and the OUSD never stop. You are lying through your teeth. With the extraordinary test performance of these American Indian Model schools, the state would have had them under investigation had they been throwing students out shortly before testing began. That enrollment data would have been easily transparent to the state. With newly released data, the original AIM school just became the #1 middle school in the state of California. These kids graduate from the high school having had two years of Mandarin Chinese, having all taken the AP Calculus exam, etc. NONE of them require remedial coursework in college – even the ones who attend Stanford, MIT, Cornell, etc. are capable of doing the work.

      So tell us, “Sharon”, exactly how does one recruit the high-testing students when schools will not release this information for individual students? And tell us how exactly does that work when students are admitted to the charter school by lottery? And tell us WHY it is that all the so-called “high-testing” students across the OUSD who remain in regular OUSD schools are NOT testing in the 900’s on their API scores and are NOT passing AP Calculus, AP English, etc.? And tell us how it is that the 50% who are NOT asian score as well as the asian students? Could it be that it is the educational model that is at work here?

      And by the way, your Asian argument is disingenuous as the asian kids FOLLOWED the high test scores, they did not create them. As you well know, since you navigate the CA DOE website for data, the original middle school which just went #1 in the state this year grew from an API of 436 in 2000-2001 to scoring above 900 for the first time in 2005-2006: they hit 920 that year with only 36% asian and 1% white. In other words, the high test scores came first and then more asian parents started enrolling their children. And note that the OUSD average API score for asian students was only 768 at that time. So please explain to us, “Sharon”, your statistical analysis of how this minority of asian students manages to explain the schoolwide API test score of 920?

      We’re not buying what you’re selling “Sharon”. No average parent knows how to navigate the exceptionally user-unfriendly CA DOE website to get the kind of data-splice you referenced. You’re an educrat shill and a liar.

  7. novometro said

    Sharon, What is that you know exactly? OUSD records show no expulsions from AIPCS for the last three years. Is it possible that reports of expelled students enrolling at Bret Harte just before testing are not true? And the the number of black, hispanic, and American Indian students at AIPCS is 62 percent, according to the most recent information available from the CDE. Do you have numbers for 2006-2007 school year?

  8. Famous Inventors

    Famous Inventors

  9. Maggie said

    Sharon, you are 100% correct. The schools demographics have dramatically changed since Ben’s arrival and he has actively ignored the school’s own admission policy but giving space to students with high test scores over other students with lower scores. The school’s initial success from 2000-2003 was a miracle because the students did make amazing test score gains. However, the shift in demographics need to be taken into account in current discussions regarding the school. Taking a student from the 93 percentile to the 97 percentile on a standardized test does not a miracle make.

    Novometro- Yes, there are no explusions, because Ben asks the students and their parents to withdraw. Its like when people quit when they know they are about to get fired.

    The only reason he is quitting is because he hopes that an investigation into the school will end if he leaves. There is so much more that can be dug up on his actions there and it trying to prevent it from coming into the light. But, trust me, he will still be involved in the school. He simply knows when it is time to retreat and now, is definitely the time.

    • Howard said

      Maggie, both you and Sharon are wrong for the following reasons:

      -The school’s intitial success from 2000-2003 is not a “miracle.” It is the result of an excellent program that emphasizes immersion in math and English, proving that minority students can be high achievers when not treated as societal victims as many intercity schools do.

      -The shift in demographics is a plus, showing support for this progam because Asians and Whites would rather go to this school than to an Oakland public school.

      -Kudos to Dr. Chavis who gave new teachers a week to accept his program and fired them if they can not or will not. Unlike our public schools, who under teacher union pressure, make it almost impossible to get rid of incompetent or lazy teaachers.

    • Ecco said

      Well, Maggie, it’s three years later and Dr. Chavis continues to be actively involved in the American Indian Model schools as the most dynamic member of their Board of Advisors. As Donny Brooke said above, Dr. Chavis kicked himself upstairs. The more fool you. Do you think the original founders of the KIPP schools are still working as principals of individual schools? (By the way, as good as they are, the KIPP schools in the Bay Area come in around the mid-800’s versus the five schools using the American Indian Model which all come in around the mid-900’s.)

      Please explain, Maggie, precisely HOW it is that a charter school admits only the high-testing students when neither the schools nor the state release that information for individuals? Your accusation sounds good but I’d like to understand the evidence. Additionally, please explain, Maggie, precisely HOW this high-testing preferential admissions mechanism you accuse them of works when the school admits by lottery? And if this is “insider information” from “someone who knows”, have they gone to the State of California with this information? If not, why not? A teacher got U-Prep closed down when they went to the State with valid accusations. If your “friend who knows” is not an imaginary friend, why don’t YOU go to the state with your supposedly valid evidence?

      One final thing: there was no finding of any misconduct problems by OUSD. I write this in 2010. You and your friend “Sharon” are both liars and educrat shills trying to make any excuse you can to explain away the high performance of the American Indian Model schools because it makes the union-run regular OUSD schools look bad. They claim the kids can’t learn because they’re poor and have tough backgrounds. Oops! Looks like poor kids from tough backgrounds CAN learn when they’re in a proper school. Makes it rough to keep peddling those lies, doesn’t it?….

  10. Sharon said


    I obtained the data for AIPCS enrollment at for the school code -6113807. I just double-checked the figures, again.

    In 2001-2002, the school had 42.5% American Indian or Alaska Native students, 33.0% Hispanic or Latino students, and 23.6% African American students. The total for these subgroups is 99.1%. The remaining 0.9% was the one Pacific Islander student.

    In 2003-2004, the school had 22.0% American Indian or Alaska Native students, 28.0% Hispanic or Latino students, and 23.5% African American students. The total for these subgroups is 73.5%. I originally said 74% because I was taught to round up.

    In 2006-2007, the school had 3.4% American Indian or Alaska Native students, 23.6% Hispanic or Latino students, and 23.0% African American students. The total for these subgroups is 50.0%.

    Does that suffice?

    As for the mid-year departures, I never said they had been expelled. Dr. Chavis’ tactics of intimidation and well-known flip-flopping personality (attack dog or charming, depending on his mood) seemed to work well enough to make some students leave. It was the just-before-testing timing of their enrollment at the next school that caused those administrators to be suspicious.

    • Ecco said

      No, “Sharon”, that does NOT suffice. See my comments above. You have intentionally lied and spread disinformation. And you are an educrat shill. As they say, “There are lies, damn lies, and then are statistics.” For a more robust statistical analysis see my comments above. Better yet, answer my questions above about what you “know” and HOW you “know” it. Those of us who are professionals in the field of education and who are also trained in data analysis are going to call you out every time you trot out your dishonest “analysis” and what you claim to “know” about the performance results of this school.

  11. I think Dr Ben Chavis needs to come be the Principal at Pine Ridge High School in Pine Ridge South Dakota. This is the home of the Pine Ridge Thorpes. Named after Ben Chavis’ grandfather Charlie Chavis’ good friend and shoolmate Jim Thorpe!
    The Thorpes won’t know what hit them if they can get this guy!
    Those nappy headed pesky Indians down there in the badlands need all the help they can get! There are children being left behind over there!

  12. David said

    Does anyone know how to contact Mr. Chavis? I wanted to forward some math materials that he might want to use at his next school.

    I’ve had to teach my sons math at night since the public school was failing them. Recently, my 4th grader came home and said “Dad, something creeped my out in math. No one except me knew that 1/2 was bigger than 1/3 or 1/4.” I said “that’s why I make you do extra work at night; I want you to always remain the only boy getting the questions right.”

    I think if I was poor and was faced with the choice of sending my boys to a school in Oakland that wasn’t much more than expensive daycare, and a school with an occasionally crass principal, but one that made sure that all the students GOT an education, the choice would be a no-brainer.

    It might be true that other methods might work just as well, but you are forgetting that these parents are choosing between completely corrupt schools that promise their children a life at McDonalds and something that gives their kids a chance in life.

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