Crazy Like a Fox: One Principal's Triumph in the Inner City
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The inspiring true story of "one of the country's finest educators" (National Review) and the school he changed forever.
Under the leadership of highly unorthodox principal Dr. Ben Chavis, Oakland's American Indian Public Charter School was hailed as an "education miracle" by governor Arnold Schwarzenegger after it was transformed from a failing "nuisance" into one of the best public middle schools in the nation.
This is the story of that transformation and of a man who dared to be different. With his rigorous, no-nonsense approach, Dr. Chavis debunks the myth that poor, minority, inner-city schools have little chance at academic excellence. Focusing on back-tobasics ideals, he has created a structured educational model that, combined with the enthusiasm of his students and teachers, delivers astounding results.
In Crazy Like a Fox, Dr. Chavis recounts how he did it-in his own words and through the stories of the extraordinary young people he's helped.
middle schools in the state; it was a past recipient of the National Blue Ribbon Award, an honor bestowed upon the top 250 public or private schools in the nation by the United States Department of Education. By contrast, in 2000, American Indian Public Charter School was the worst middle school in Oakland. It had an attendance rate of about 65 percent and a student body who could not read, write, do math or any other academic tasks at grade level. In this very gymnasium that was once carpeted
that? Unfortunately, that’s what they get at most Oakland secondary schools. Family members drop by AIPCS all the time asking how they can get their child into our school. Some come in, and their kids are only in third grade! They’ll say their son or daughter is not learning or behaving in school, and they want more structure and accountability. They like the rules and discipline that AIPCS offers. Andrea Lloyd, for example, the mother of sixth-grader Mariah Smith, said she was drawn to the
race. I didn’t go into teaching to save city Indians, that’s for sure, or blacks, Mexicans, Chinese, or country whites. I went into education because that’s what I enjoy doing. And I’m a strong believer that if you enjoy doing something, you’re gonna be good at it. That’s just it. I’ve always done for a career what I wanted to do. When I taught public school I enjoyed doing it, and then I got tired of it. When I went to the university I enjoyed it, and then after several years I got tired of it.
Simmons Middle School. His mom, Maria, wanted him to leave Calvin Simmons because of the gang activity there. Jose had tried to get into a middle school called Dolores Huerta, but it was full, so the principal recommended he try American Indian Public Charter School. Jose came to us with a 1.97 GPA. He says of his sixth-grade year, “As students we still weren’t putting out our best, but it was a better education than I had at Calvin Simmons. On my first report card at AIPCS, I got a 3.67. It was
to me earlier? ‘Hit him.’ Tell them they can have some of the cornbread I made last night and water.” Then I asked him to look over the algebra problems they were working on. By the time I went back in the house, the boys were working diligently. I started explaining that I knew they were smart and had great potential and that I believed in them, but they couldn’t keep acting like fools in class. As I spent time with them and explained my views, the boys realized I was looking out for their best